Editorial: A failure to communicate

Traffic and bike 'improvements' draw stiff push-back across city

The frustration being felt by many Palo Alto residents over a flurry of confusing changes to streets and traffic patterns is approaching a boil, fueled by what feels like a lack of accountability or effective problem-solving at City Hall.

The latest outcry is from parents of children attending Walter Hays Elementary School at the corner of Embarcadero and Middlefield roads, one of Palo Alto's busiest and most dangerous intersections.

As part of major modifications to this intersection in recent weeks, apparently with little or no outreach to the Walter Hays school community or the neighborhood, the city implemented changes that have had a cascading negative effect on all users — drivers, bikers and pedestrians — including the elimination of the universally valued "all-walk" signal.

For as long as anyone can remember, the traffic signals at this intersection have been set to provide a special "all-walk" cycle during about 20 minutes before school starts and after school lets out. Unlike normal signaling during other times of the day, this stops traffic in all directions and enables hundreds of students and their parents to safely cross the intersection diagonally under the watchful eye of a crossing guard while no car movement is permitted.

The city has just made this intersection much more complicated. It added left turn signals in both directions on Middlefield that not only add another cycle to the signals at the intersection, extending the time for a full cycle to occur, but has reduced through traffic to a single lane. Because of the new turn lane onto westbound Embarcadero, the intersection becomes completely blocked whenever a bus stops at the bus stop on Middlefield just south of the intersection and a new curb "bulb-out" squeezes cars into a narrow traffic lane. A lane that allowed northbound cars to turn east onto Embarcadero was eliminated, causing long back-ups on Middlefield and giving cars incentive to take shortcuts through the neighborhood. And without warning, the once safe all-walk diagonal traffic cycle has been eliminated, meaning many young children must now cross the busy intersection in two steps, while traffic is moving parallel to them instead of being stopped in all directions.

Ironically, the city says reinstating the all-walk signal will significantly delay traffic trying to get through the intersection because of the other changes it has made to the street and traffic patterns. In short, every single recent change has made this intersection less safe, more complicated and less efficient.

Does this all sound all-too-familiar?

Residents of south Palo Alto have been objecting for months as they have seen Ross Road re-made into a virtual obstacle course, with so many street markings, speed humps, signs, bulb-outs, traffic circles and other devices in the name of increasing bike and pedestrian safety that citizens have undertaken a petition to have it stopped and re-evaluated.

So far, response from city staff and the City Council has been muted, adding to residents' frustration.

And similar makeovers are in progress or will soon be on Louis, Moreno, Amarillo, Montrose and on the existing Bryant Street bike route. These projects are part of an $8.6 million first phase of changes to more than 7 miles of local streets scheduled to be completed by this fall. Contracts for the work were approved long ago by the council, so it's not even clear what can be done to stop them even if there were agreement to pause the projects.

Residents are justified in their concerns and objections to what they see taking place, and the city's response — increasing its outreach efforts to explain the projects — is too-little, too-late.

One lesson coming out of this is that a demonstration project should precede a large-scale roll-out so that the community and its leaders have a chance to react. Another is that the city must be more effective at creating visual explanations of its plans and publishing them in the newspapers and in city libraries and directly sending them to residents prior to adoption of those plans.

But the problem now is the growing community uprising in reaction to these projects and the increasing animosity between citizens and the city's transportation staff. The council and city manager need to determine what options are available to suspend or modify these projects and engage in collaborative problem-solving with residents. And they need to ask themselves why these avoidable communication breakdowns keep occurring.

While intentions are undoubtedly good all around, and not all mistakes can be prevented, these kinds of problems need to be better anticipated and quickly addressed when they surface. Without immediate action by city leaders, residents' frustration and loss of confidence in city government will grow, making future important initiatives all that more difficult to successfully achieve.

Related content:

Webcast: Walter Hays traffic; new bell schedule


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79 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 5:49 am

The city manager and city council are in the hunt to raise more taxes to pay for their pet projects and to pay for the rising pension costs. Yet the city manager and city manager won't prioritze; the $8.6 million dollars should have been dedicated to the much desired bike bridge; instead the money was spent on what the editor so aptly calls an "obstacle course", which the vast majority of residents do not favor.

This year is an election year, and the voters will only have themselves to blame if they don't hold incumbents responsible for their decisions.

24 people like this
Posted by So biased
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2018 at 7:44 am

“Universally valued?” Really? Have you waited through 3-4 light cycles on westbound Embarcadero trying to get past the “all walk” signal if you are unfortunate enough to have a doctors appointment at Stanford or PAMF near school start or stop times? And is waiting for two walk signals (one shortly following the other), just like all the rest of the pedestrian world, really so onerous for Walter Hays children?

Not saying that, in the end, balancing all interests that the all walk might not be the best option, but this editorial is extremely biased to claim that what it wants is “universally” wanted. Many people want traffic improvements, the key is what is the best balancing of interests — if everyone wanted the all walk, it wouldn’t have been changed in the name of improved traffic flow.

62 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 4, 2018 at 8:42 am

another great editorial ; thanks!!!

Why is the city going forward with so many changes without any out reach or public review? Did the Planning and Transportation commission review the changes at Embarcadero and Middlefield?

AS the article mentions theses projects are very expensive!The city seems unwilling to prioritize projects, and then just spend, spend, spend on all of them.
Theses projects are largely unwanted by the majority of residents and appear to make the streets less safe for the most vulnerable not more safe!

WE need a council MAJORITY that is more responsive to the residents needs and one that will be more fiscally responsible.

52 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 9:23 am

What all of these changes have in common is that they cost a lot.
Can't help wondering whether the City Manager is paying off lots of his supporters before he retires.

Two bollards at so many right turns -- whatever for?
Someone has a lucrative contract to install these impediments.
Need to expose these before he bankrupts the city.

26 people like this
Posted by Chris Harvey
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 9:26 am

Poor communication notwithstanding, I am completely in favor of the changes on Ross Road. It has been well studied and documented that circles at intersections slow down the traffic flow and increase safety. Ross Road has become a through-street of choice for drivers hoping to avoid the lights on Middlefield and the stop signs on Louis. If you can't safely navigate the new "obstacles" on Ross, then you really shouldn't be driving at all. That said, yesterday i watched a young driver blast around the new circle at Ross and Moreno without slowing down at the yield sign for another driver, so regardless of known safety measures there will always be reckless and dangerous drivers.

44 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 9:30 am

This lack of communication is further compounded by the change in personal thru the years. One official makes a commitment to some plan then they move on and replaced by someone else who claims to "know nothing about that ----"

Sometimes I think this is being done on purpose as a tactic to avoid responsibility for actions being taken.

50 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2018 at 10:26 am

VERY GOOD EDITORIAL Now let's see if the Council will do anything.
There are obstacles in Ross Road that need to be REMOVED.

73 people like this
Posted by Paul H. Goldstein
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2018 at 10:41 am

@Chris Harvey: I live near Ross Road and have been on it as a pedestrian and driver nearly every day for 25 years. I have never observed the kind of reckless speeding that might have made the new "obstacle course" appropriate. Ross Road has been a fairly busy street for many years, because of the Y and its proximity to Palo Verde school. Now it is not only a fairly busy street, it is also a ridiculously and unnecessarily dangerous street. I now see reckless driving on Ross Road almost every time I'm on it. The only thing that has changed is the City's installation of the "obstacle course."

14 people like this
Posted by Peter M
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2018 at 10:47 am

Such hyperbole:
"Residents of south Palo Alto have been objecting for months as they have seen Ross Road re-made into a virtual obstacle course, with so many street markings, speed humps, signs, bulb-outs, traffic circles and other devices in the name of increasing bike and pedestrian safety..."

"Some residents" would be more accurate. And how are bulb-outs that impede traffic no more than existing parked cars, speed bumps that only require vehicles to slow to the speed limit, and traffic circles that actually allow faster processing of traffic than four way stop signs amount to an "obstacle course"?

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths have increased recently in our country given increased speeds and distracted drivers. We need to make our streets safer for all, not just suitable for motor vehicles.

10 people like this
Posted by Chris Harvey is spot on.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2018 at 11:11 am

Chris Harvey is spot on. is a registered user.

I agree with Chris Harvey. Spot on.

47 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 11:39 am

Novelera is a registered user.

Terrific editorial! The only sense I get from our current Council majority and the "transportation" officials (read: bike enthusiasts) is that of complete know-it-all arrogance. I remember hearing that they were going to "test" some of these circles and perhaps not go forward with all of them. Sounds like a big, fat lie to me. And, if it were true, these crazy obstacles are not going to come back out for free.

I wish all the build too much housing and screw up our streets current City Council majority were up for re-election in November. I can hardly wait to vote against the ones that are.

91 people like this
Posted by PV resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2018 at 11:44 am

Having attended meeting regarding the bike boulevards prior to the connstruction of the Ross Road fiasco, I have to say the problem isn't simply one of inadequate information to residents. There is a vigorous rejection of opposing opinions. If you don't agree with what the planners are planning then you are considered "ignorant, ill-informed, or NIMBYist".

At the early bike boulevard meetings there were some residents who strongly questioned the need for such a large scale collection of new constructions on Ross Road. We said as locals who use the road regularly for biking and driving and walking children to school we didn't think it needed to be substantially changed beyond the the possible addition of a few more speed bumps.

If city planners had come to these meeting with the intention of actually listening to residents, then they would not be blind-sided by the discontent now. Instead, any residents who were not part of the bike coalition there to praise the whole bike boulevards concept were deemed anti-visionary, pro-car, anti-bike, etc.

More ONE-WAY communication will not improve anything in Palo Alto. City employees need to LISTEN also. And not just to the active special interest groups. Most residents are busy just trying to get on with our lives. When I take time to come to a city meeting and then learn that no one will listen to an alternate view-point, I don't feel like engaging in more fake city outreach events.

I UNDERSTAND how roundabouts work. I don't think they are a good idea in THIS circumstance.

65 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 4, 2018 at 11:53 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Thanks for the editorial. It's long overdue. The city's willingness to tolerate poor performance and failure to communicate from its transportation and planning staff is one of long-standing dating back to when it allowed our former Transportation czar to take 9 years to shut off the unnecessary 3d traffic light near Paly and then retain him as a consultant.

3 years ago we told the new Transportation Czar why restriping Middlefield and Embarcadero was such a bad idea but evidently his management told him it was acceptable to ignore citizen complaints.

Now you're got citizen frustration spreading from neighborhoodand a 20% decline in confidence that the city's heading in the right direction and can spend our tax dollars wisely as per the recent tax survey.

City staff, city management and many on the CC should be hanging their heads in shame and searching for answers. Instead you have former Mayor Sharff repeatedly dismissing any and all criticism as "extreme" and "ludicrous" and the city STILL demanding tax increases!

Private sector employees would be fired for this type of performance, not richly rewarded with higher raises etc. when we have a huge unfunded pension liability.

70 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 12:22 pm

I have been to information meetings by the City on many occasions and it is just PR fluff to let their "experts" tell us residents what they are going to do. Any questions we have are answered with, "it will all make sense when you see the finished version". The city does not want input, just want to check of a list the item that reads "outreach to local residents".

While all this expensive and necessary work continues in many places, we still do not have a new bridge over 101 and once again the tunnel will close when the rains start (hopefully) next winter.

37 people like this
Posted by Corey Levens
a resident of Green Acres
on May 4, 2018 at 12:22 pm

The precursor to all of this were the horrible modifications made to Arastradero Road. They got away with it there, and now the rest of the City is experiencing the wrath of the transportation department through its pet projects. And it's happening here again with the utilities department, too. They literally all of a sudden showed up one day in our neighborhood to start moving electrical equipment above ground in big, ugly boxes all around the neighborhood. We're fighting that fight now, but it will be coming to a neighborhood near you soon enough, so pay attention.

16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Sorry, that should read expensive and unnecessary work ...

59 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@PV resident and Resident

I think you are probably right. Those meetings are often a sham...not really intended to 'get' residents' inputs and act on them, but to 'give' information/inputs about the pet projects that they have already decided to move forward on, but "thanks, folks, for coming to the meeting". Check that one off the list. We met our obligation to hold a meeting and get input. There was no requirement for us to listen to that input, however. Full speed ahead!

67 people like this
Posted by Constructive resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 1:13 pm

The City needs to re-think its policies before it pours cement or changes roads. In the past, when residents wanted some traffic calming measures on their streets (and the Ross Road project is traffic calming, not a bicycle boulevard despite the painting on the roadway), they needed to get signatures of 3/4 (or maybe it was 2/ any event, a large majorit) of the residents on that street. The City should do the same thing when they implement some large changes - NOT just hold more meetings, send more postcards, make glossier presentations, or even present their projects to PTC or Council. They should actually contact the folks on the streets and get them to buy-in to the project BEFORE it happens.

11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Corey Levens

Thank heavens I was alert (or else I could have killed bikers) when driving on Arastradero on my way home after a salmon fishing trip. Bikers were going home after school let out at Gunn HS. No hands on the handle bars, racing to pass one another, requiring them moving into car lanes, and just plain showing off by doing weird things on their bikes. Talk about reckless driving? I've changed my entry route back into my town to get home...faster and safer for me and the bikers.

4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Constructive resident

Absolutely right...couldn't agree more!

3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 4, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Chris Harvey

I can just partially agree with you. I have actually started using, and liking, the Ross/Meadow roundabout, but I only travel it on 'off' hours. It's great for me to just slide through, when no other traffic is around, at 11 AM, and get home faster. But, is that a criteria and measurement of a successful project? I sure as hell hope not!

46 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 4:29 pm

I lost faith in Palo Alto City Government a long time ago.

I consider all of this new street infrastructure a boondoggle and I will oppose new tax increases to pay for more boondoggles. If the public safety building is our biggest priority why doesn't the city just focus on that instead of adding road furniture we don't need?

3 people like this
Posted by Naybor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 4, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Naybor is a registered user.

The rollout of these new projects is really different from how Charleston-Arastradero was planned.

First, there really were traffic and speed issues on that street.
Second, there was EXTENSIVE outreach
Third, there were paint trials done with many modifications made based on neighbor input and feedback.

I know not everyone loves it but it really has made the road a lot safer for biking and it is possible to cross it safely where before you never had enough visibility.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Naybor is correct up to a point.

The final plan for construction revision and painting/marking/bulb-outs at intersection roads are different than the plan of several years ago when there was the outreach he mentioned. The latest plan can be seen here on the City's website.

Web Link

Notice the renaming to "Charleston-Arastradero Bike Corridor Project".

18 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on May 4, 2018 at 9:12 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Since the changes started on Louis and Amarillo, I’ve seen multiple instances of people driving down the wrong lane of Amarillo during school drop offs. It’s hard to believe these changes are a good idea.

And those of you who still support traffic circles should come check out the mini circles in Downtown North. Traffic circles with only 2 way stop signs, forcing cars approaching the intersection way behind where there is good visibility, and forcing pedestrians to cross in the lane are not the same as European traffic circles. It’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents than there are.

8 people like this
Posted by Obstacle Courses
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2018 at 9:53 pm

[Post removed.]

15 people like this
Posted by Blinders
a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2018 at 7:18 am

Blinders is a registered user.

@biased - the current setup has a deep flaw that only makes the problem for traffic worse without a universal crossing signal. Now that there is a single lane for both straight and right turn traffic on southbound Middlefield, traffic going straight can't get through if pedestrians block someone trying to turn right. It would be more efficient for the traffic if the kids could get moved in the more efficient manner of a diagonal crossing, as well as much safer for the kids. This intersection will always get backed up before and after school - the majority of Hays students have to cross it. Let's at least try to make it safe and efficient during that short period of 40 minutes each day.

32 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2018 at 2:13 pm

I don't think any of this was an accident. The TMA's stated mission is to reduce car travel in Palo Alto. The intersections are being redesigned to accommodate LESS car traffic than they did before.
They believe that if our roads were designed in a rational way, it would only open the floodgates for more SINGLE-occupant commuters which, their studies show, are the primary cause for traffic congestion.
You see, the American dream of living in spacious suburbs and driving a luxurious car is selfish and bad for the environment. We need to DENSIFY.
This is part of a broad attempt in the Bay Area to reprogram people's minds so that driving to get to places isn't the *norm* anymore. It is social engineering over a period of decades. It is a very "progressive" concept. Keep voting for Jerry Brown-style progressives and this is what you get.

43 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm

The headline is very misleading. There was and is NO failure to communicate. The city government understands very well that residents don't want these projects.

The project are built regardless of resident concerns because these project are part of a broader Party policy of social engineering which uses redevelopment projects to undermine the efficiency of vehicular transportation. Undermining vehicular transportation helps make the case for government run public transportation and urbanization favored by the Party's benefactors in the real-estate industry.

31 people like this
Posted by Rex
a resident of Downtown North
on May 5, 2018 at 5:09 pm

PV resident is correct. I attended several of these early 'planning' meetings [portion removed.] It was quickly evident that the fix was in, no problem was ever articulated, and the 'cure' was already decided. The cure was a pile of street furniture, period. That the city has plowed ahead with these pointless 'improvements' to bike lanes, no doubt pissing away millions in the process is appalling. There is clearly no respect for the tax dollars being spent, nor any for what residents want. While most of the 'cure' is being applied in south PA, in my view, several of the most dangerous bike intersections are on Bryant north of Lytton. The problem is too many cars too close to the intersection for both cyclists on Bryant and cars on cross streets to see each other clearly. Simple problem with a simple solution; block parking an additional cars length away from those few intersections. The Josh Mello 'solution' is to add a half doze traffic circles, really obstacles, all over south Palo Alto with little rhyme or reason.

2 people like this
Posted by Better Pictures
a resident of Hoover School
on May 5, 2018 at 6:01 pm

It would sure be great to have a 2-D or 3-D diagram of this problem intersection. Reading the text, it's very hard to visualize.

Same with all of the "city outreach" drawings that are old-school 2-D. No wonder residents can't visualize the changes!

It's the age of VR, yet we're here in the heart of Silicon Valley, with 1960s technology.

23 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 5, 2018 at 6:34 pm

"Why is the city going forward with so many changes without any out reach or public review?"

Because it gets unsubscripted feedback and even objections when it does public reviews--how many citizens are going to believe that channeling vehicles and bikes into intimate proximity is going to make the roads safer? So why waste time tolerating questions and objections which they plan to ignore anyway? And Mello will be long gone to his new job in a bigger city by the time his showcase Legoland Of The Streets is completed.

2 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on May 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

Wait till they tear up El Camino and start the underground transit system. You see modern successful cities are to resemble busy bee hives in appearance. However because of environmental problems it probably is better to start up more cities to avoid big impacts. Meanwhile, do I have to provide the catastrophic financial loss of the Buena Vista? The ciy and county stonewalling me because they know I'm a land economist (really a social studies teacher to parities involved). Gale: how much did they pay for the trailers? Meanwhile California is losing billions in investment in housing because of places like Mt. View and the Buena Vista.

38 people like this
Posted by Intentional lack of communication
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2018 at 1:38 pm

The failure of communication between the Transportation Department staff (Josh Mello) and the residents of Palo Alto is no accident. The staff doesn’t want to communicate with Palo Alto taxpayers.

28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 6, 2018 at 3:44 pm

When asked why residents who are directly affected living on the street were never notified of changes I have received a collection of responses:

-Didn't know how to contact the residents. Heard this one several times.
-Several organizations/groups were involved so no need to notify actual residents.
-They now have new computer simulation software for street/traffic planning. It it can optimize plan for best results. No need for further input or trials like done in the past.

Along with some other lame excuses. Agree, it seems the Transportation staff does not really want to communicate.

23 people like this
Posted by catalyst for change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2018 at 3:48 pm

What is happening now should be the catalyst for
long over-due broad fundamental change in Palo Alto. If the City in the future is found guilty of negligence as a result of these dangerous street conditions in which warnings and concerns from the public about safety and efficacy were dismissed or not adequately addressed then any court ordered judgement against the City or settlement entered
into by the City should be recovered by the residents in a clawback provision against the City Manager's recent pay increases and resulting pension benefits. This is common practice among companies against CEO's in the private sector following their departure if circumstances warrant. If the Manager is made aware of this things might change here. The Palo Alto City government in land use control and traffic engineering has been completely disconnected from it's responsibility to serve the public interest
and the long-term damaging impacts keep growing.

5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2018 at 5:13 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ george drysdale

I'm not sure what you mean by your question. I have no idea how much they paid for their trailers or how relevant that question is.

Anyway...I supported it originally (reluctantly and conditionally), but only after debating it in my own mind, with the thought that it is the last and only hope for truly 'very low' and 'low' income housing in PA. I think that has proven to be true, but at a very high cost. All these new ideas and ordinances passed for re-zoning, for 'affordable housing' are just politically driven fluff, and don't begin to address those at the bottom income levels.

CC has washed their hands of BV, I think, and won't answer any questions about how it's going with the new manager at the helm of the property. We've spent $15 million on the project and we are now looking away from it...assuming everything is going well there, and that it will be a smashing success? Now that sounds very much like religion. It's all based on faith.

Better wait for a better and newer assessment, not based on faith.

No wonder our tax paying residents are skeptical of other similar projects and requests for new taxes to fund them.

I'll make an offer to Liz and Cory. Other CC members are welcome to join us also...didn't mean to exclude any of you. Join me for a walking tour through BV, knocking on doors...talking to people on the street...and asking questions of people living there. How are they doing now? Are they happy? Is it working out like they thought it would, or were promised?

How will their lives be affected by the disruption of upgrading infrastructure in the park to bring it up to code, having to move elsewhere for a period of time, and will their rents be increased as a result?

That's it for now...always a challenger and a thorn in the side of our most progressive and forward thinking citizens in our local government, our current CC majority.

4 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on May 7, 2018 at 10:48 am

Gale: If they paid a fortune for the trailers in the Buena Vist for trailers that are worth vitually nothing there's your scandal. The catastrophe in Capitola and the great Santa Cruz land swindle (internet). Palo Alto has been had. Political correctness run amok. The Mountain View Voice has censored me because I'm a social studies teacher and a land economist. By the way, low rise coastal California is on it's way out. Sorry but your land is worth more, however

17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 7, 2018 at 11:06 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"The frustration being felt by many Palo Alto residents over a flurry of confusing changes to streets and traffic patterns is approaching a boil, fueled by what feels like a lack of accountability or effective problem-solving at City Hall."

It would be nice to get a response from our Transportation staff, City Hall management and the CC members. Their excuses for not knowing how to contact the residents effected by their decisions are absolutely pathetic, as is their tone-deafness in asking for yet more tax increases and water rate hikes when our confidence in them has fallen 20%.

3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2018 at 11:27 am

" low rise coastal California is on it's way out."

Bo surprise: the elites want their ocean view condos, so to the sky they go. Think Miami Beach.

2 people like this
Posted by moreball
a resident of Community Center
on May 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm

The worst Middlefield intersection is down the road from Embarcadero at Lincoln right next to Addison Elementary. The speed reduction efforts made last summer is not working. Plus driving apps are showing Lincoln as a faster way across town.
This intersection needs a light and more stop signs on Lincoln between Channing and Middlefield where there are none right now. How much are stop signs and a light compared to all this highly questionable concrete work at Embarcadero and even Ross.

Look at the unofficial data at Lincoln/Middlefield;
9/28/15 at 6:30 pm
11/12/15 at 1:50 pm
8/24/17 at 5:00 pm
9/24/17 at 3:00 pm
12/30/17 at 11:35 am (took the Addison School sign down)
1/6/18 at 6:10 pm
1/18/18 at 4:30 pm
2/9/2018 at 7:45 am
3/12/2018 at 9:00 am
4/9/2019 at 6:00 pm, 4 cars
4/19/2019 at 5:00 pm, 3 cars

23 people like this
Posted by Lynn Ware
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 7, 2018 at 12:08 pm

I am furious about the "labyrinth" maze the city is constructing that was initiated by adult bikers who are determined to make Palo Alto homeowners "bicycle computers" vs. drivers. I have been a resident of Palo Alto for 20 years and there are many in our community who bought homes here in the late 50's who are physically unable to bike to nearby stores, doctor's appointments, etc. . We need to use the roadways we paid for with our tax dollars in our CARS. The new structures are unsafe for us as drivers and for our children who commute in packs to nearby schools, regardless of how much "bicycle education" is provided to them. What makes matters worse is that over 1000 people in South PA have asked the City Council to halt construction until more data is collected on the safety of the new roundabouts and bulb outs that have already been built, but the city is NOT LISTENING. Construction continues!!! I resent my tax dollars being spent in this way and I plan to vote these City Council people out, who voted for and approved this horrendous mess: Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Karen Holman, Liz Kniss, Greg Scharff, Greg Tanaka and Cory Wolbach.

16 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on May 7, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Enlightened Palo Alto politicians know better than the public that bicycles are the best for society. Any deplorable car drivers must submit to the will of the democratic majority. Forward, comrades!

16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Annette is a registered user.

The first clue that all the changes are part of an out-of-touch planning scheme is the terminology: STREET FURNITURE! If that isn't bureaucratese, nothing is.

Gale Johnson is exactly right to define the outreach meetings as he has. The meetings are perfunctory. City Staff could do themselves (and us)a huge favor by occasionally doing something that suggests they are listening at and not just attending these meetings.

7 people like this
Posted by PA Grandma
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2018 at 2:12 pm

@ so Biased . . .

The Universal Crossing at Walter Hays School is only 40 minutes a day. I think we can live with that as long as it protects our school children from the increasing number of maniac drivers that populate Embarcadero and Middlefield roads. It's only a matter of time before they kill someone.

And you don't have use Embarcadero to get to Stanford or PAMF. Go down Channing to Alma and circle around or go straight through on University. I do it all the time.

6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 7, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

According to the other paper today, the city has evidently decided not to seek a tax increase but instead to start eating into our cash reserves while they continue to raise utility rates. So much for accountability or caring what the residents think.

@PA Grandma, 1) it's the PARENTS who are complaining about this intersection. They're not happy. The rest of us aren't happy.

But even if the parents were happy, do you really believe that all of Palo Alto should be inconvenienced 23 hours a with more backed up traffic for 40 minutes a day 9 months out the year because of poor planning?? I'm sure the folks on Channing will be as thrilled by your cut-through plan as are all the other residents who are stuck with cut-through traffic to avoid our zillion dollar-street furniture?

5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Lynn Ware

I agree that the bike lobby has been in control and taken over with the support of CC. I'm not so sure of the timing of when it was approved and the names you listed who approved it, but I'll trust you are right. It was originally proposed several years ago, with the 'sham' neighborhood meetings to get...'wink wink'...input and approval? I guess you give Lydia and Adrian a pass on this issue. This one issue alone is not cause to throw the supporters out of office. There are so many other issues that could be added to the list.

Who are the supporters? Of course, those who are two generations removed from us old timers who don't own or ride bikes anymore. We did in our day, however. We're NIMBY's now and we don't ride bikes. We are bad people and such a drag on our community...with the new PA culture, the socially and environmentally enlightened ones.

Millennials are driving it, the 'I want it now' crowd. I could lecture them and encourage them to listen and learn about the patience and perseverance we had, and how long it took us to save up to buy a home in 'my town'. But I won't. These times don't and can't compare to the early '60's in the last century. Middle income folks, including blue collar workers, were able to buy homes, at least in my SPA neighborhood. Those days are gone forever.

But, can I please keep my car to go buy groceries without having to negotiate bulb-outs, speed bumps, center islands with plantings, and tiny roundabouts/circles?

No CC member has commented publicly on the Ross Rd issue and I think they've been given and taken direction from our city attorney, not to. I have a hunch there will be some law suits filed in the future.

Totally off the subject of this article, but thanks, Greg Tanaka. City Manager Keene would have been so smart, prudent, and well advised to find ways to cut $300K out of a $250 million general fund budget without drawing attention to the deficit and not suggesting to take it out of the reserve fund. He seems to have been dealing with softies for so long. Greg Tanaka is not a softie. Filseth isn't either. And finally we've got 'numbers' people on CC, who know about bottom lines, budgets, etc. Let's keep them there.

12 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2018 at 3:59 pm

It is pretty clear that all of these "projects" are unstoppable once conceived. I, for one, intend to become a single issue voter and vote against any council member who was in favor of the bicycle boulevard stupidity.

Join me.

1 person likes this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2018 at 4:06 pm

I believe the June 27, 2017 ACTION MINUTES and TRANSCRIPT are where the votes are recorded: Web Link , Web Link

6. Approval of Contract Number C17161815 With Granite Construction Company in the Amount of $8,649,191 for the Construction of Neighborhood Traffic Safety and Bicycle Boulevard Improvements
Along; Amarillo Avenue, Bryant Street, East Meadow Drive, Montrose
Avenue, Moreno Avenue, Louis Road, Palo Alto Avenue, and Ross
Road, Consistent With Approved Concept Plans and the City's Adopted
Bicycle + Pedestrian Transportation Plan and Approval of an
Appropriation Budget Amendment in the Fiscal Year 2018 Capital
Improvement Fund.

27 people like this
Posted by Steamed on Louis Road
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2018 at 4:29 pm

The narrowing of Louis Road is an abject disaster.

It is NEVER ok to mix car and bike traffic in the same lane.

Bikes and riders way 200lbs. Cars and trucks weigh north of 3000lbs. Bikes are nimble and cars/trucks are not. Bikes travel slowly and cars do not.

I cannot wait to vote every council member out of office who agreed to this "traffic calming" disaster.

This mess will be studied by Traffic Engineering students for years to come as an example of a 100% failure.

Everyone involved should admit they made a huge mistake, stop the project, and return our streets to a conventional safe condition. Tender your resignations ASAP.

24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Today's headline in the Daily Post: City may dip into its reserves.

Per the article, Tanaka asked Keene why, in a booming economy, we can’t balance the budget without dipping into our reserves. Rather than answer, Keene referenced some of the budget line items and added that "the Finance Committee . . . is welcome to come up with ideas to balance the general fund budget without using reserve funds".

Where in the private sector could a subordinate say to his or her boss: "Here’s the budget. Spending exceeds revenue so we will tap our reserves. If you want a budget that doesn’t do that, you do it"??? I sometimes think our City Manager forgets (ignores?) that he answers to the CC, not the other way around.

And then there’s the unfunded pension liability. We were short $405 million a year ago. We set aside $2 million per year to a trust that now has $7.6 million in it. No matter how you do the math, we are whistling at the shortfall. How is this good management?

Kudos to Tanaka for not letting an unsupportable, unsustainable business-as-usual approach to City finances go unchallenged.

8 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Actually I like what San Francisco has started to do. Something like this.

Sidewalk/Bikes/Parallel parking/Travel lane(s) Where the parked cars separate the bike lane from the traffic lane.

So, you have the sidewalk, then the bike lane, then parallel parking for cars, then the travel lanes(s). All this is striped and signed.

So you get this wall of steel between the cars and the softer traffic. An added benefit in Palo Alto is people would no longer be able to park halfway up on the sidewalk.

18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2018 at 12:07 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Re the article Annette mentions, it said Mr. Keene welcomes suggestions from the city council in where oh where he might find new revenue streams.

Let him look no further than the "Google" tax Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel whereby companies are taxed based on the number of in Mountain View (23,000) that would raise revenues to an estimated $10,000,000 (with $5M from Google alone) vs their current piddling take of $250,000 from a $30 company licensing fee.

From this Sunday's Chronicle: The $5 million Google Tax That Could Fix Every Silicon Valley Problem

Web Link

"“Employment is growing faster than we can house people and provide transportation for them,” Siegel said at a City Council committee meeting Thursday to discuss the issue. Businesses shell out vast sums anyhow, he said: “They have to pay (higher) salaries because they can’t find workers, or they pay the tax.”

The idea of such a tax isn’t new. San Jose, Redwood City and Sunnyvale have them."

Like this comment
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 8, 2018 at 11:03 am

Old Steve is a registered user.

Be Careful what you wish for folks! Voting against (instead of voting for something) by some in WI, PA, & MI, apparently elected Dolt 45. I am not sure who you are voting for if you are voting against all of the CC you just elected. I am certain all of the meetings were properly noticed. The City also has to give legal notice of the Construction Contract. City is under no obligation to stop now, and would suffer legal damages to the Contractor if they did.

6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2018 at 11:10 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Great, Old Steve. So the city gets to waste our money signing contracts for poorly thought-out projects opposed by so many of us that actually increase traffic as we try to find more cut-through routes to get where we're trying to go? That sounds just like Mr. Mello spending MORE money on consultants to tell him it's neither "feasible nor appropriate" to his mistakes that thousands of us experience daily?

Maybe some staff members should have their pay/benefits docked for signing those contracts instead of giving them bigger budgets and maximum raises for which the city has to dip into our cash reserves?

Still waiting for a response from city staff, city management and the CC on this great editorial.

3 people like this
Posted by Jus Joshin
a resident of University South
on May 8, 2018 at 12:55 pm

>>It is NEVER ok to mix car and bike traffic in the same lane.

Mello out, man. It's simple as one two three. Proximity leads to friendship. Friendship enhances mutual awareness. Mutual awareness prevents collisions.

13 people like this
Posted by catalyst for change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2018 at 1:02 pm

The residents need to obtain court ordered injunctive relief against the City to stop
these road projects which are a threat to public
safety, and are causing harm to neighborhoods and the public interest. This will provide time for
a new Council majority to be installed, through
recalls and/or new elections to deal with the
rapidly developing crisis the City is in.

5 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 8, 2018 at 2:22 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Since CC cannot fully ignore what comes before them in Council Chambers, I suggest that everyone who is vexed about the way the Transportation Dept is "fixing" problems and "improving" our streets, make a point of going en masse to City Hall on a chosen Monday night. Sign up to speak. And if you are not comfortable doing that, give a like-minded person your time. You need not wait for a night when this topic is on the agenda as anyone can speak during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, which is usually at the beginning. In other words, STORM CITY HALL! Many groups do this and it seems to have some effect. Other tools for getting CC's attention: organized talking points, buttons or stickers carrying your message, pinning a colored ribbon on your lapel, dressing in a specified color, t-shirts with a message, small signs to wave when a speaker says something with which you agree. The outcome may still displease you, but every once in a while CC hears concerted messages.

One thing's for sure: if you don't go to City Hall, you will most certainly NOT be heard.

12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"One thing's for sure: if you don't go to City Hall, you will most certainly NOT be heard."

Unfortunately true since the city staff, city management and most of the cc members can't be bothered to respond to calls, letters and emails including those sent to the CC themselves.

I resent having to waste 5 hours sitting in the council chambers being ignored while the mayor and other cc members feel it's ok to ignore our other communications. And think of all the extra car trips we have to make downtown ;->

8 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2018 at 1:17 am

I was pretty skeptical of the roundabout intersections at first and while they were being built. There is one over in Professorville I think and it always makes me kind of nervous to approach and go through ... but I assume that is the point.

They seem to work, and we should be willing to give it a try and see what the consensus is rather than just go by what the folks who as suspicious of change say. They might be right, but let's at least give it a chance.

What is a bit daunting is the way they are not really full circles like one might see in a foreign country, because our sidewalks and public space is so limited the corners of the crosswalk seem to make the circles a bit difficult to navigate ... but again, that pushes drivers to slow down. I guess we will see if we notice a lot of skid marks on the curbs. But it does mean that our cars will be doing a lot more weird right turns ... will this affect steering and shocks?

I hop whoever is in charge of these projects puts some video cameras to see in general how people react and interact with bicycles and pedestrians.

Can someone report on what their self-driving car makes of these intersections?

10 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2018 at 1:24 am

I was also against what went on with Middlefield in the last year or so. It seemed like there was no rhyme or reason and the lanes were getting limited to one lane in either direction, but that has not been a disaster, in fact I think it makes the street calmer and easier to drive on. All the little white pylons look weird, especially around Jordan, but one thing it accomplishes that seems to be key these days is that it keeps most people from attempting stupid maneuvers, and so even though the throughput might be limits things are more orderly and may even be faster in same situations.

8 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2018 at 2:07 pm

You what is so stupid about these projects? If they want to slow down cars, there is a simple solution.

Just put more stop signs.

Of course that wouldn’t cost 8+ million bucks to screw up our streets. But of course it’s government staff mindset of spend as much as you can.

8 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Me 2 ... putting in more stop signs would be a great solution if anyone in Palo Alto actually stopped at a stop sign! ;-)

To many stop signs may actually make it more likely that those who are susceptible to running stop signs to actually do it more. Having now a little experience with these roundabouts, I am not crazy about them, but they do seem to work.

6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2018 at 2:08 am

"Me 2 ... putting in more stop signs would be a great solution if anyone in Palo Alto actually stopped at a stop sign! ;-)"

So what if there's a California stop - it did it's job of slowing cars down.

We haven't even tried the simple solution before going out and spending millions on hated projects. That's what really is stupid.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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