News

As Target eyes former Fry's building, Palo Alto rethinks its housing plan

Owner of Portage Avenue property requests zone change to accommodate large retailer, other commercial uses

Palo Alto is considering a request from The Sobrato Organization to loosen zoning rules for the former Fry's building at 340 Portage Ave. to allow for more flexibility in renting to commercial tenants. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

With prospects for housing at the former site of Fry's Electronics fading, Palo Alto leader and Ventura neighborhood residents are preparing to accept a far more modest proposal for the old cannery building on Portage Avenue: an assortment of retail and office uses anchored by a small Target store.

The question of what will happen to the sprawling complex at 340 Portage Ave. has been — and remains — at the heart the city's yearslong debate over Ventura's future and the city's housing strategy. The City Council has for more than decade eyed the Fry's building and the surrounding area as the city's most suitable site for new housing, given that it's zoned for multifamily residential use and is generally deemed to be underdeveloped. The city's Housing Element identifies the property as an opportunity site for housing, with the ability to accommodate 249 units.

Yet for a residentially zoned site, the property remains exceptional. The council granted Fry's Electronics in 1999 a zoning exemption to remain in operation at the old cannery building. While the zoning exemption was initially set to expire in 2009, the council voted in 2006 to make it permanent, a move that was designed to give Fry's some assurances about its future.

Even with Fry's departing from the neighborhood last December, the exemption remains in effect. The city's code states that the 340 Portage Ave. building, as well as adjoining areas at 3200 Park Blvd. and on Olive Avenue, can continue to be used for retail, storage and research and development. Code also requires, however, that these uses are permitted in "approximately the same ratio" of uses existing in October 2006. This restriction means that the retail component of the 90,000-square-foot building cannot exceed 60,000 feet.

Last month, however, the city received a request from the property owner, The Sobrato Organization, that would give the developer more flexibility and dash any hopes for a significant housing project at the Fry's site for the foreseeable future. Sobrato has requested a change in the zoning code that would eliminate the requirement for the site to retain the same ratio of uses as it did in 2006.

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The trigger for the request is Target's proposal to set up a 30,000-square-foot store at the Fry's building. Tim Steele, senior vice president for residential development at Sobrato, pitched the idea of bringing a Target to Ventura at a January community meeting, where he cited the company's history of building small stores tailored to the communities and neighborhoods where they are established. He pointed to examples in Berkeley and Cupertino.

"This is a company that's finding ways to blend in with each community differently," Steele said at the January meeting.

A commercial building at 200-400 Portage Ave., which once was used as a cannery, has been designated a historic building in Palo Alto. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

The ensuing pandemic and economic shutdown, which has rattled Palo Alto's retail industry, has not deterred Target from pursuing its plans. Steele noted in a July 6 letter to Planning Director Jonathan Lait that Target is "very interested in opening an approximately 30,000-square-foot store at this location."

"This store would be designed by Target to the specific needs of Palo Alto and would reflect Target's desire to craft their brand to the neighborhood," Steele wrote. "However, without more clarity and flexibility from the city of Palo Alto on what is permitted here, the Target store is unlikely to come to fruition as the program we develop for the site will need to account for the full 90,000 square feet of space that is currently vacant."

The city has yet to make any determinations on the Target application. According to a written update City Manager Ed Shikada provided to the City Council earlier this month, the request from Sobrato seeks to remove code language that precludes the expansion of other land uses, including offices, at the former cannery.

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Steele noted in his letter that retaining the Fry's building — and its commercial uses — need not preclude the construction of housing elsewhere in the north Ventura area. If the building at 340 Portage Ave. were to be retained for office and retail use, residential buildings can be constructed on the south side of the property, along with a parking structure on the north side, Steele wrote.

"We strongly believe that this zoning code text amendment will achieve multiple City objectives including the preservation of this historic structure while still allowing for a significant amount of future housing," Steele wrote. "This includes the preservation and utilization of at least 30,000 square feet of community serving retail space — something that is significant in the current economic environment."

While Sobrato has resisted building housing at 340 Portage Ave., neighborhood residents Terry Holzemer and Becky Sanders and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Keith Reckdahl are pitching another alternative: having the city buy the site and build hundreds of units of housing. Holzemer and Reckdahl, members of the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan working group, and Sanders, moderator of the Ventura Neighborhood Association, have proposed preserving the Fry's building but converting it into multifamily housing.

A newer office building at 3250 Park Blvd. would be converted into housing under a proposal by three Palo Alto residents to redevelop Palo Alto's Ventura neighborhood. Embarcadero Media file photo.

Under their proposal, the city would build about 400 below-market-rate housing units for teachers, seniors and people with disabilities as well as 770 other housing units. This would be accomplished by converting both the Fry's building and a newer office building at 3250 Park Blvd. to housing, as well as constructing several smaller apartment buildings along Park, between Olive and Lambert avenues. The plan also calls for converting the small office building at 3201-3205 Ash St. to a community center.

The city would finance the purchase through 30-year municipal bonds, which will be repaid through tenant rents and by revenues from a business tax that the city is looking to adopt (the council in March halted its effort to place the business tax on the November ballot because of the economic shutdown, but the tax could make an appearance on the 2022 ballot).

In presenting the proposal, the trio cited the city's history of allowing high-tech firms to replace local retail and community-serving officers such as health providers. These tenants, the proposal states, "increase peak-hour traffic, price out local businesses" and force neighborhood residents to go farther to shop, dine and receive professional services.

"We propose to end this trend by converting the zoning along El Camino and other streets in Ventura to allow only housing and true local-serving businesses," the proposal states. "This will benefit residents, open up new housing opportunities, and benefit many local firms priced out of our community."

Unlike Sobrato's proposal, the trio's plan would prohibit offices at the Fry's building.

Becky Sanders, moderator of the Ventura Neighborhood Association, right, speaks at a Feb. 5, 2019, community meeting on the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan. Photo by Gennady Sheyner.

"With Fry's now gone, we think it's time the site became housing, just as the city's zoning and housing inventory intended," Holzemer, Reckdahl and Sanders wrote in the proposal.

Despite the city's historical yearning for housing at the site, Palo Alto is unlikely to go along with the plan. The City Council passed a budget in June that cuts expenses by $40 million and, as the city's recent abandonment of renovation plans for Cubberley Community Center demonstrates, city staff and council members have little appetite for new infrastructure projects or big-ticket purchases.

Even though the city has traditionally opposed — and banned — big-box stores, numerous Ventura residents said at the July 28 meeting of the working group that they would support having a mix of retail operations at the Fry's building that combines neighborhood-serving offices and a small Target. Kirsten Flynn, a Ventura resident who serves on the working group, said she would support continuing retail use at the site.

She also said that if she were to support the extension of commercial activities, she would like a "good fail-safe" that the space intended for retail doesn't get converted to offices.

While residents continue to cite below-marking-rate housing as a top priority for the North Ventura plan, many have grown hesitant to replace the Fry's building, which was constructed more than 80 years ago by Thomas Foon Chew and which has served as a cannery until 1949. Some, including Holzemer, have advocated for retaining the Fry's building and commemorating it as an important part of local, state and national history.

Others, including Flynn, said they were open to redeveloping some portions of the Fry's building to facilitate housing but preserving most of the old cannery. Both said they would support having a mix of retail, which could include a Target, at the site.

Lakiba Pittman, an Olive Avenue resident and working group member, expressed a similar sentiment. A Target could "add some excitement" to the neighborhood, she said during the July 28 discussion.

"I don't want to put down Fry's in any way, but at least it was a store that people could go to for some things," Pittman said. "I didn't think it would be missed, but it kind of is missed, so I think having a store — not just a little, itty-bitty store, but a small Target — would be good for the area."

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As Target eyes former Fry's building, Palo Alto rethinks its housing plan

Owner of Portage Avenue property requests zone change to accommodate large retailer, other commercial uses

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 12, 2020, 8:55 am

With prospects for housing at the former site of Fry's Electronics fading, Palo Alto leader and Ventura neighborhood residents are preparing to accept a far more modest proposal for the old cannery building on Portage Avenue: an assortment of retail and office uses anchored by a small Target store.

The question of what will happen to the sprawling complex at 340 Portage Ave. has been — and remains — at the heart the city's yearslong debate over Ventura's future and the city's housing strategy. The City Council has for more than decade eyed the Fry's building and the surrounding area as the city's most suitable site for new housing, given that it's zoned for multifamily residential use and is generally deemed to be underdeveloped. The city's Housing Element identifies the property as an opportunity site for housing, with the ability to accommodate 249 units.

Yet for a residentially zoned site, the property remains exceptional. The council granted Fry's Electronics in 1999 a zoning exemption to remain in operation at the old cannery building. While the zoning exemption was initially set to expire in 2009, the council voted in 2006 to make it permanent, a move that was designed to give Fry's some assurances about its future.

Even with Fry's departing from the neighborhood last December, the exemption remains in effect. The city's code states that the 340 Portage Ave. building, as well as adjoining areas at 3200 Park Blvd. and on Olive Avenue, can continue to be used for retail, storage and research and development. Code also requires, however, that these uses are permitted in "approximately the same ratio" of uses existing in October 2006. This restriction means that the retail component of the 90,000-square-foot building cannot exceed 60,000 feet.

Last month, however, the city received a request from the property owner, The Sobrato Organization, that would give the developer more flexibility and dash any hopes for a significant housing project at the Fry's site for the foreseeable future. Sobrato has requested a change in the zoning code that would eliminate the requirement for the site to retain the same ratio of uses as it did in 2006.

The trigger for the request is Target's proposal to set up a 30,000-square-foot store at the Fry's building. Tim Steele, senior vice president for residential development at Sobrato, pitched the idea of bringing a Target to Ventura at a January community meeting, where he cited the company's history of building small stores tailored to the communities and neighborhoods where they are established. He pointed to examples in Berkeley and Cupertino.

"This is a company that's finding ways to blend in with each community differently," Steele said at the January meeting.

The ensuing pandemic and economic shutdown, which has rattled Palo Alto's retail industry, has not deterred Target from pursuing its plans. Steele noted in a July 6 letter to Planning Director Jonathan Lait that Target is "very interested in opening an approximately 30,000-square-foot store at this location."

"This store would be designed by Target to the specific needs of Palo Alto and would reflect Target's desire to craft their brand to the neighborhood," Steele wrote. "However, without more clarity and flexibility from the city of Palo Alto on what is permitted here, the Target store is unlikely to come to fruition as the program we develop for the site will need to account for the full 90,000 square feet of space that is currently vacant."

The city has yet to make any determinations on the Target application. According to a written update City Manager Ed Shikada provided to the City Council earlier this month, the request from Sobrato seeks to remove code language that precludes the expansion of other land uses, including offices, at the former cannery.

Steele noted in his letter that retaining the Fry's building — and its commercial uses — need not preclude the construction of housing elsewhere in the north Ventura area. If the building at 340 Portage Ave. were to be retained for office and retail use, residential buildings can be constructed on the south side of the property, along with a parking structure on the north side, Steele wrote.

"We strongly believe that this zoning code text amendment will achieve multiple City objectives including the preservation of this historic structure while still allowing for a significant amount of future housing," Steele wrote. "This includes the preservation and utilization of at least 30,000 square feet of community serving retail space — something that is significant in the current economic environment."

While Sobrato has resisted building housing at 340 Portage Ave., neighborhood residents Terry Holzemer and Becky Sanders and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Keith Reckdahl are pitching another alternative: having the city buy the site and build hundreds of units of housing. Holzemer and Reckdahl, members of the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan working group, and Sanders, moderator of the Ventura Neighborhood Association, have proposed preserving the Fry's building but converting it into multifamily housing.

Under their proposal, the city would build about 400 below-market-rate housing units for teachers, seniors and people with disabilities as well as 770 other housing units. This would be accomplished by converting both the Fry's building and a newer office building at 3250 Park Blvd. to housing, as well as constructing several smaller apartment buildings along Park, between Olive and Lambert avenues. The plan also calls for converting the small office building at 3201-3205 Ash St. to a community center.

The city would finance the purchase through 30-year municipal bonds, which will be repaid through tenant rents and by revenues from a business tax that the city is looking to adopt (the council in March halted its effort to place the business tax on the November ballot because of the economic shutdown, but the tax could make an appearance on the 2022 ballot).

In presenting the proposal, the trio cited the city's history of allowing high-tech firms to replace local retail and community-serving officers such as health providers. These tenants, the proposal states, "increase peak-hour traffic, price out local businesses" and force neighborhood residents to go farther to shop, dine and receive professional services.

"We propose to end this trend by converting the zoning along El Camino and other streets in Ventura to allow only housing and true local-serving businesses," the proposal states. "This will benefit residents, open up new housing opportunities, and benefit many local firms priced out of our community."

Unlike Sobrato's proposal, the trio's plan would prohibit offices at the Fry's building.

"With Fry's now gone, we think it's time the site became housing, just as the city's zoning and housing inventory intended," Holzemer, Reckdahl and Sanders wrote in the proposal.

Despite the city's historical yearning for housing at the site, Palo Alto is unlikely to go along with the plan. The City Council passed a budget in June that cuts expenses by $40 million and, as the city's recent abandonment of renovation plans for Cubberley Community Center demonstrates, city staff and council members have little appetite for new infrastructure projects or big-ticket purchases.

Even though the city has traditionally opposed — and banned — big-box stores, numerous Ventura residents said at the July 28 meeting of the working group that they would support having a mix of retail operations at the Fry's building that combines neighborhood-serving offices and a small Target. Kirsten Flynn, a Ventura resident who serves on the working group, said she would support continuing retail use at the site.

She also said that if she were to support the extension of commercial activities, she would like a "good fail-safe" that the space intended for retail doesn't get converted to offices.

While residents continue to cite below-marking-rate housing as a top priority for the North Ventura plan, many have grown hesitant to replace the Fry's building, which was constructed more than 80 years ago by Thomas Foon Chew and which has served as a cannery until 1949. Some, including Holzemer, have advocated for retaining the Fry's building and commemorating it as an important part of local, state and national history.

Others, including Flynn, said they were open to redeveloping some portions of the Fry's building to facilitate housing but preserving most of the old cannery. Both said they would support having a mix of retail, which could include a Target, at the site.

Lakiba Pittman, an Olive Avenue resident and working group member, expressed a similar sentiment. A Target could "add some excitement" to the neighborhood, she said during the July 28 discussion.

"I don't want to put down Fry's in any way, but at least it was a store that people could go to for some things," Pittman said. "I didn't think it would be missed, but it kind of is missed, so I think having a store — not just a little, itty-bitty store, but a small Target — would be good for the area."

Comments

Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:09 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:09 am
11 people like this

I’ve been speaking out about a park at the site ranging from 7 to 39 acres.
Specially if it does more to establish Ventura as Palo Alto’s historically black neighborhood.


Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:12 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:12 am
Like this comment

And I think most importantly and in this election cycle with fresh enthusiastic and capable candidates especially newcomers we should think about Castilleja site Cubberley site and Fry’s Ventura as a set.


BMR Housing!
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:31 am
BMR Housing!, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:31 am
51 people like this

I strongly support Terry Holzemer and Becky Sanders proposal for the city to buy the site and build housing including a strong component of BMR housing. They could probably even break even if they did it right. Maybe the county can help out. There is no way this site should be used for retail given our housing crisis. I personally don't think the Cannery needs to be preserved but I did grow up in historic New England where anything built after 1900 was considered "new". - Hamilton


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 12, 2020 at 10:11 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 10:11 am
40 people like this

There is a Target in EPA that I go to, as well as a Target in MV. How many Targets does anyone need? We are under the gun to build some housing that can also include some small businesses - coffee shop, hair styles, cleaners, etc. Do not screw this up. If the city screws this up and then goes into residential neighborhoods to create more housing then that is the result of total incompetence. There is money for housing. We are told that every day in the papers. Go get that money. Call up the Weiner and ask him to get the money. If he is the person running around and creating these problems then he also has to be on the hook for delivering the money.

Article in SFC 08.03 - "Cities build because they have to.: SB35 is being used to force housing - they noted Castro Valley and Los Altos. That is Weiner's Bill.
If a developer wants to build housing there then that is what is going to happen. That only works for housing. Does not work for commercial uses. And Sobrato knows that. So who is making deals here? You only get to deal on housing.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto

Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 10:11 am
Name hidden, Old Palo Alto

Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 10:11 am

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:32 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:32 am
21 people like this

SB35 does away with traditional "zoning". R-1 can be ripped apart for R-2. In Los Altos they fought the building on Main street because it does not fit their Zoning and city plan. They went to court and lost. Likewise in El Cerrito they did not want a building in a open space but it is going to happen. Zoning as an excuse does not work now. It has been legally thrown out.

If Sobrato is not up to residential building because it does not "pencil out" then sell to Butler. The whole section across the street from the Sequoia Station in RWC has been rebuilt with apartment buildings. It looks great. Some of it is SU apartments. The city needs help here in financing and the state is on the hook to help out.
If the city allows a large commercial unit like a Target to go in there then we need to have a legal showdown with however is in charge of allowing that. Who are those people making those decisions? This is a legal issue. And the papers tell us every day who is winning and who is losing. And what the rules of the game are. No one is going hide here.


Samuel Jackson
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:32 am
Samuel Jackson, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:32 am
24 people like this

Building a Target alongside extensive new housing and other improvements? Sure, why not. Building a Target INSTEAD OF building new housing? A tragic injustice which should haunt everyone involved til the end of their days. This would mean cowardice won over the city, and a lack of any civic-minded creativity won over the property owners.

The community doesn't need more giant signal flares to the world that it can't solve its own problems. It just needs to go solve them, by building housing. A lot of it.

The site is so big we can all have our cake and eat it too, especially if we embrace transportation options that reduce the need for massive (empty) parking lots. Want to preserve the building? I work inside it and don't know about its historical value - I think that's at least half NIMBY FUD - but, sure -- there is enough room. Want to build a Target? Guess what, there's room, if you eliminate parking and empty space and build *up.* So, let's do it all, if that's the only way to get it done.


anon1234
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:36 am
anon1234, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:36 am
50 people like this

Sounds like Reckdahl and Sanders are more pro housing than current and past council majorities!?
Tanaka should not be re-elected. He has a terrible voting record of not supporting housing or renters and has already amassed a huge campaign war chest of upwards if 60k nearly all of which came from big developers.
Don’t be fooled again.


Housing, retail vs. MILLIONS on parking garages
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:38 am
Housing, retail vs. MILLIONS on parking garages, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:38 am
28 people like this

1). I wonder if Target is looking for a new small store location at Frye's because Mountain View rezoned their Showers Drive property for high density housing.

2). This comment in the article could use amendment, "...city staff and council members have little appetite for new infrastructure projects or big-ticket purchases." I would add--except for parking garages--for which they are spending many tens of MILLIONS. You are welcome, developers and businesses.

Meanwhile, the city's housing fund has been depleted, and Council Members Cormack, Kniss, Fine and Tanaka voted against a proposed business tax and developer impact fees that would have helped to replenish the fund. So much for supporting affordable housing.

Show up for the Council candidate debates, friends. It will be evident that many of this year's candidates talk about supporting housing (especially the newbies), but they have no clue how to achieve that goal and no record on getting housing approved. To get it right, developing affordable housing (or any housing, for that matter) requires sophisticated, comprehensive planning and a thoughtful strategy that works with EVERY level of government. It also requires some local funding, so why are these Council Members who say they support housing voting no on proposed revenue generators to replenish that housing fund?


Becky Sanders
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:48 am
Becky Sanders, Ventura
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:48 am
35 people like this

Think of us over here at ALT M as PRO-HOUSING, CON-COMMERCIAL. People, this is the time to get what we NEED desperately at the Fry's site. We must SUNSET the commercial use there, which is the City's right to do, which will keep the value of the property at a rate commensurate with its residential zoning. I mean it's residentially zoned already, but the City has allowed the property to house offices and commercial uses due to the popularity of Fry's. THAT WAS THEN THIS IS NOW. There are new sheriffs in town. Actually we have been here all the time, but we have critical mass now. THIS IS THE TIME to look at ALTERNATIVE M and make our move to house the people that need it the most, while at the same time giving Palo Altans an addition to the Ventura neighborhood that we can be proud of. We're talking people-focused amenities like a community center, more park space and light and air in a reasonably dense residential community. Plus housing people there rather than housing office and commercial will: 1) help with our jobs/housing imbalance; 2) get state agencies who complain we're not meeting our housing goals off our backs, and most importantly 3) House the people we love and care about that need housing desperately. And remember, Palo Alto has met or exceeded its regional housing allotment at MARKET and above MARKET rate. Where Palo Alto blows is providing housing for those making less than or at Area Median Income (AMI). Anyhow, if you want to join our Alt M bandwagon, hit me up at [email protected] And we'll send you materials. It's our time, folks. Thanks Gennady and PAW for giving us a voice. We sure need it over here in Ventura.


No more housing right now.
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:59 am
No more housing right now., Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 11:59 am
31 people like this

We do not need to build any more housing right now. We are in the midst of a "sea change" when it comes to how people will work and live in the next decade. We need to wait and see how many businesses fail and how many giant office buildings can be repurposed for housing.

Palo Alto is more than 100 acres behind in the amount of park space that is owed to current residents of this city. My first choice is that the entire area become another Embarcadero park to serve this area of Palo Alto. The ongoing pandemic has shown us that we do not have enough open green and recreational areas for people to utilize safely at this time.

Second choice it that it be something like a large Target or large grocery store so we don't have to drive to Redwood city or Mountain View if we want to shop at a reasonable priced store. No more of these tiny grocery stores or tiny Targets - we deserve a real large one, like the Fry's that it would replace.

We definitely do not need any more office space and the owner of the property should know that that is a non-starter. That is what they really want but it should be a flat out NO! (If the city council could actually learn how to use that word).

The only tax I would willingly support would be to buy this area and make it a large urban park for the city. Otherwise all taxes are non-starters at this time.


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2020 at 12:16 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 12:16 pm
24 people like this

The city has to stop backsliding and bowing to developers. We NEED housing not a Target.


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:22 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


CGPA
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:51 pm
CGPA, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:51 pm
39 people like this

Sobrato is an office space developer. The Target is a Trojan horse to convert the site to primarily office space, which is the business Sobrato is in. And to put in a 30,000 square foot retailer into a space that is limited to 60,000, Sobrato suddenly needs 90,000 on their way to conversion into an office tower when the political winds are blowing the right way.

If the council doesn't have the funds to develop low cost housing on the site, that doesn't mean that housing there needs to be scrapped. Even market rate housing would be an improvement. Target ships me anything I want for a $25 minimum. If I need to go to a store, there are two within a mile. We don't need to give up this site so that Sobrato can park it for another ten years before converting it into offices. Tell them to sell it or build housing.


Fr0hickey
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Aug 12, 2020 at 3:52 pm
Fr0hickey, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 3:52 pm
5 people like this

We need the old Fry’s site to be converted to a park. This way, we will have a place for homeless people to camp out, like Cupertino does on Wolfe Road just before the 280 on-ramp.


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Aug 12, 2020 at 3:55 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 3:55 pm
22 people like this

The EPA and MV Target stores are close enough. We don't need a Target or any retail in the Fry's location. We need below-market-rate housing and a PARK -- preferably a park with a decent swimming pool. The Fry's building is a huge old building and hardly anyone knew it was a cannery until the conversation started about what should come next on that real estate. We definitely do not need to celebrate a cannery in Palo Alto. Let's get rid of that old building and build what we need in this century.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:06 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:06 pm
9 people like this

Make a deal to build 4 floors of housing on top of the Target. That would be a win-win.


sallyfwood
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:35 pm
sallyfwood, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:35 pm
9 people like this

Target is a wonderful store for those of us with less income.


PST
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2020 at 7:01 pm
PST, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 7:01 pm
22 people like this

Tear down an old eyesore of a building. Build lots of housing (Some ELI housing)including community center and park. Don’t give Sobrato permission to do anything. Withdraw the exception allowing retail use. Either buy it or find a partner to work with to develop. Tax local businesses to raise funds.


Heidi Schwenk
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 12, 2020 at 7:29 pm
Heidi Schwenk, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 7:29 pm
19 people like this

Please NOT ANOTHER TARGET in or near Palo Alto. MV has a large one! Walmart is next door! Trader Joe’s and Safeway are in the vicinity too!

The Ventura Area needs greater attention than a MEGA-Store (who also donates to the Republican Party) and does not promote any races (51 white executives and 2 black executives!; also does not support promoting Women). City Council and Manager, instead of supporting the Target Executives (Republicans) who would make money off the Ventura community by selling ‘junk food’ (unhealthy food) that makes people unhealthy, overweight and diabetic; think long term. How can you improve the healthy and welfare of our citizens? Why support selling all income levels ‘new’ Poor quality stuff (that won’t last a year). Where are the Urban Planners with keen imaginations? Palo Alto needs a long term plan for the entire City!

Over all the City of PA needs conscious and careful planning for the next 10, 20, 30 years such as environmental beautification (flat, well maintained sidewalks and streets, more drought tolerant trees and flowering bushes, affordable well built housing (that will last longer than 5 years), small independent and excellent outdoor cafes, booths, bakeries, ‘community centric amenities’, bank, bookstore/internet site for community, hair/barber/nail salon for jobs (thinking of covid/all transmittable diseases). Include a bigger and nicer Park for families, and a central area for community gatherings such as outdoor live music, movie nights, speakers, poets, all kinds of performers and possibly a small skate park nearby.

Please take this amazing opportunity to create a dynamic community centric area that has needed attention for decades! Raise the bar for everyone in Ventura and the surrounding established businesses, then everyone can thrive. Oh, and put solar energy panels on top of all the buildings and create shaded areas with solar energy panels!

Please Please Think outside the BOX! Your children and grandchildren will remember the good you have accomplished for the masses and not just for the wealthy.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2020 at 10:35 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
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on Aug 12, 2020 at 10:35 pm
12 people like this

Mid-range, medium density housing with buffer “mini parkland surrounding.” I model I really like is the famous Greenhouse development. Go a bit higher and INCLUDE PARKING.
NO underparked development.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
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Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2020 at 9:01 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 13, 2020 at 9:01 am
32 people like this

A big problem we have here is why Target even got into this discussion. Someone in the city is prepping how that parcel will be developed. Who in the city is doing that? Someone who is an employ of the city? We need to understand who in the city is setting up these "deals". What department and who is in charge? Who ever is behind this is getting paid to push this agenda.

It is bewildering to imagine that everyone is talking about housing and then people pop up with these non-housing ideas and expect us to embrace them.

We have had a entry about the foreign government with H1b workers from Crescent Park. Other people who do not live in that area who like it. Hey Midtown, lets tare down the Midtown area and put a Target there with all of it's traffic?

The existing Targets are in areas that have huge parking lots and other businesses.
That is the right way to do it for them. We do not need that traffic in that area.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2020 at 10:25 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 13, 2020 at 10:25 am
16 people like this

I am noting the comment above that the space that MV Target on has been rezoned from commercial to housing. See how easy that is? I suspect that Target is in direct opposition to Walmart and is losing that battle. A Target and Walmart in the same location is not a winner. The Target in RWC has a huge grocery section. The MV Target does not. The MV Target is very limited in product presentation.

If a Target appeared in the FRY's site it would not be a full grocery Target. We don't need a mini-Target at that location. And Targets use large parking lots so that is a giant waste of space. We are not looking for giant space users for the FRY site.
If anything the Fitness Club at the MV location is empty. That is two buildings occupying space needlessly. Target should take over the Fitness Buildings if it needs a place to grow.
The goal for FRY's now from my POV is four towers - each with their own needs based housing. From old people to BMR people to teachers and city workers. All are in the location to take the local streets to go to work. All of the commute paths are there by bike. And if in car minimal commute time.
Do not screw this up.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:25 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
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on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:25 pm
4 people like this

It is difficult to convince any property owner to use his property for a purpose that he does not want.

It is especially difficult to get a property owner to build rental housing when the city has made it very clear that it has no respect for the rights of landlords. The Buena Vista and Hotel President hearings were filled with open hatred and confiscatory threats toward landlords.

I was of the opinion for a number of years that the Sorbato organization might tolerate a housing use of the Frys space. If this was true, one can certainly understand why they decided to steer clear of housing.

As we contemplate what the next steps here are, I suggest a serious change in tone to something more conciliatory and collaborative.

I think that having a non-profit buy the Frys space for use as housing might be a good approach, with money from the city (no use of the "planned community" ordinance this time either, find the money first).


BruceS
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:35 pm
BruceS, Greenmeadow
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on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:35 pm
7 people like this

I'd chime in to support housing and replacing the cannery building. A Target is a nice to have but, as another commentor noted, not really necessary. Housing is, especially (unwelcome as it may be) denser housing.

The existing building is nice, but doesn't strike me as anything special. Keeping it just for historical reasons seems unreasonable. It's not at all appropriate for housing. It seems that office space isn't being considered (a bit far from the Caltrain station to be optimal for that use anyway). If retail does end up as the final winner then it's probably worth saving for that use. But at least some of the parking lot should be converted to housing. Even when Fry's was at it's most popular, the lot was rarely anywhere near full.


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

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on Aug 13, 2020 at 4:01 pm
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on Aug 13, 2020 at 4:01 pm

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Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
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Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 14, 2020 at 5:05 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 14, 2020 at 5:05 pm
23 people like this

I received the paper Weekly and am re-reading this story. As presented - we are stuck in an agreement from 2006 that was specific to there being a FRY's at this site. Fry's up and left on their own volition. What ever agreement you had in 2006 is no longer applicable and has been overcome by numerous legislative actions concerning housing and zoning applicable to housing. You are off the hook and can defend that in court.

Sobrato is trying to stick a Target in there to validate the need for the continuation of the 2006 policy. If there is no Target then what ever ruling has been overcome by events and current legislation.

The depiction of the city staff here is not good. Sounds like a victim mentality. This is 2020 and the city is in charge or is going to get sued by the state busy bodies. Are you concerned about being sued? By the State?

The local group has a lot of good ideas. A Target will consume too much parking space and is not a good investment at that location. A number of convenience shops would work well. Maybe a medical group office from PAMC - they have tiny emergency stops for urgent care.
Bottom line is that yes Sobrato does own the land but the going in position was on shaky ground to begin with. Having the Target will perpetuate a set of bad legislation - not to our advantage.
The city needs to extricate us from Sobrato if they do not want to build housing. You can win that in court in today's environment.


mjh
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College Terrace
on Aug 15, 2020 at 1:49 pm
mjh, College Terrace
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on Aug 15, 2020 at 1:49 pm
15 people like this

@rsmsmithjr

"It is difficult to convince any property owner to use his property for a purpose that he does not want."

That's what zoning is for.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 15, 2020 at 6:11 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 15, 2020 at 6:11 pm
4 people like this

MJH - we have legislators at this moment eradicating zoning, and they have already accomplished that in part. Look at the entrees on this posting concerning San Antonio. The are going to rip out commercial businesses to put in housing. If they had their way they would rip out Cubberley and put in housing. They are doing that all over the city, county, and state. Go up to RWC - solid blocks of new housing in what was commercial zoned areas. One Supervisor in San Jose wants to rip out the local small airport and put in housing.

AS to the Fry's site that used to be Maximart. Then Fry's. What you have now is a huge expanse of cement that is not doing anyone any good. If a Target was put out there then you would still have a hug expanse of cement required for a Parking lot. We are being tasked to make better use of what land we do have so we are not ripping our R-1 housing.


BP parent
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2020 at 10:47 pm
BP parent, Barron Park
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on Aug 15, 2020 at 10:47 pm
12 people like this

If the city council really wanted housing at this site for Palo Alto, they would find a way.


Elaine Johnson
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 16, 2020 at 9:38 am
Elaine Johnson, Ventura
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on Aug 16, 2020 at 9:38 am
18 people like this

I cannot think of a single reason why we need a Target next door to a residential neighborhood. We have a fine retail zone nearby on California Avenue that needs our support. We have a Target that's close enough in Mountain View, for anyone who wants that specific store.

We need affordable housing and our little Ventura neighborhood could sure use another park for all these new residents, including children, to stretch their legs.

While the origins of the Fry's building are of historic interest, the building itself is not. We could honor its roots with a plaque and/or with an exhibit about the architect as the Palo Alto History Museum.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2020 at 11:21 am
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
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on Aug 16, 2020 at 11:21 am
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We don't have to focus on the Frys building. There are many other locations in Palo Alto and nearby communities that would also serve.

I suggest:
-- develop sources of funding
-- find locations that would want to sell their properties
-- put together a comprehensive plan for that location with a nonprofit to run it.

The owner of the Frys building has told us he doesn't want housing. Asking the city to have a major hassle with Sobrato is not reasonable. The city has lots of problems right now.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2020 at 11:23 am
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
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on Aug 16, 2020 at 11:23 am
2 people like this

@mjh,

Zoning is difficult and expensive. The city could be in court for a decade.

What do you want, housing or a fight?


Anon
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 16, 2020 at 12:12 pm
Anon, Ventura
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2020 at 12:12 pm
19 people like this

Once again a developer is pushing for zoning changes to maximize profit. Not exactly a surprise.

In 1984, the city council zoned this property as residential, taking effect in 1999. This was before Fry's at that site (), and before Sobrato purchased the property with full knowledge of the zoning in 2011. In 1995, the council granted a one-time 20 year extension until 2019.

Sobrato is quoted as "not interested in pursuing a housing development under the current zoning, which imposes a 35-foot height limit". Clearly this is a negotiation tactic for Sobrato to maximize their profit. I'm 100% confident that you can profitably build housing with a 35-foot limit. The question is, will that be the highest possible profit for Sobrato -- clearly they are stalling, stonewalling, as a negotiation tactic for MORE PROFIT.

Sources:
Web Link


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm
21 people like this

The Weiner should be tasked to find funding for housing. If he is creating the issues to begin with then he needs to help find the solutions. His buddy is Mr. Berman. Mr Berman- where is the great funding for these projects that are being forced on us.

In the case of FRy's that store left due to lack of business. Does that tell you anything? We did not force FRY's out - they ran out the door. Sobrato, et all, need to cease trying to make a case for a Target out there. Will not make it through any court challenge.
You all don't like the idea of a court challenge? When they come in and try and ruin the R-1 neighborhoods then watch what happens. The fur is going to fly.


Gunn Papa
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Greater Miranda
on Aug 16, 2020 at 8:53 pm
Gunn Papa, Greater Miranda
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on Aug 16, 2020 at 8:53 pm
8 people like this

We already have Mountain View and East Palo Alto Targets. We don’t need one in Palo Alto, it would be nice to have a mix of housing and parking, though. I also would not want to take business away from the other Targets.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 17, 2020 at 1:10 pm
chris, University South
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on Aug 17, 2020 at 1:10 pm
Like this comment

Gunn,

We are not talking about a large a Target, like Redwood City or even Mountain View. Think EPA or smaller (30,000 SF of less, not 130,000 SF.

By allowing a Target, you could get the support needed to build housing, including affordable housing.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
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Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 17, 2020 at 9:44 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 17, 2020 at 9:44 pm
15 people like this

Chris - what are you talking about? Who is the "we"? Are you part of the Sobrato - Target group? If you pay attention to all of the other postings on the Weekly we do not need a Target to get approval for housing. Any Target out there looks big if at the EPA locations or MV locations because they have gigantic parking lots. Gigantic parking lots are part of the Target picture. We need to make better use of that land - some park land, some apartment land. Also if you put a Target in there you will increase the traffic a huge amount coming off Park or El Camino. We are doing housing - mot commercial.


eileen
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College Terrace
on Aug 17, 2020 at 10:57 pm
eileen , College Terrace
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on Aug 17, 2020 at 10:57 pm
10 people like this

Target at that location is a Trojan Horse. Please do not allow this to happen!


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

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on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:06 pm
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on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:06 pm

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Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
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Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2020 at 9:42 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 18, 2020 at 9:42 am
1 person likes this

My view of the total piece of property is four towers located in the four corners with the interior space made into a parkland with a couple of small businesses - a coffee shop, hair, nails, cleaners, maybe a small restaurant for a nice breakfast, lunch, dinner menu. Put some trees in the inner parkland and benches to just be outside.

That location could be a showcase for urban development within a congested city. There are new apartments across the street on Park who would appreciate being able to stroll through and support the businesses.

I would think that any developer would jump at the chance to have a showcase urban development. Each of the towers would have a different type of housing - one for older people with a small urgent care center on the ground floor. The other towers would have meeting rooms on the ground floors where you could host community events. Renting some ground floor space out for community events is a big business. To that end community space in a lovely setting would also support Sunday services as churches have to struggle with having their own properties.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:53 am
chris, University South
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on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:53 am
2 people like this

How does a small Target increase traffic compared to a large Fry’s? How much asphalt does the the large Whole Foods in Los Altos?

The favorite avocation here seems to spreading unfounded fears rather than rational objectivity.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:58 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:58 am
7 people like this

The Whole Foods on El Camino in Los Altos has most of its parking underground.

Access to the Fry's site would be from either El Camino or Oregon Expressway, with the latter already being a parking lot for much of the day. I would suspect consumers shop more frequently for the diverse range of goods offered by Target than for Fry's-type computer-related merchandise so that means more traffic more often.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2020 at 11:52 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 18, 2020 at 11:52 am
17 people like this

I don't get Chris. If he lives on the north section on University the EPA Target is directly across the freeway from him. And it is a very super Target, I like going there. Very new, clean and organized with very fashionable stuff and it has a mini-market.
So Chris - since you have a new Target directly across the freeway then I will assume you have a financial interest in this whole story line. And it your job to "sell" a Target at Fry's.

As to the FRY's site the store left because it had no business. Is that not telling you all something? It had little visibility from El Camino or Park. I rambled around the Fry's area to check up on the status of the area. Make a turn on the Creekside Hotel and go down that street - it is the backdoor entrance to a whole business area that I did not know was there and takes you through the SRP. That is the obvious place for housing given the proximity to all of the high end business in that area.

The Safeway in Los Altos also has an underground garage - the store is on the second level. They thought through that dilemma and it works well.


Anne
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 18, 2020 at 4:24 pm
Anne, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2020 at 4:24 pm
5 people like this

I like the idea of having a Target in Palo Alto. Why should we always have to drive to another town to shop, fighting traffic and using fossil fuels? We could use the sales tax revenue as well. I don't want a single new office built though.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 18, 2020 at 9:59 pm
6 people like this

Error in my comment above. If you make a turn on Hansen going west off El Camino you are now driving along the CPI building which goes on forever. That is a huge complex. And you then are driving into the SRP complex of companies. Housing for teachers - great place. Housing for city staff - great place. Housing for city security teams - police and fire - great place. A lot of construction is now going on in that direct area on El Camino. Not clear what the end result will be. That whole area is now going through a change up.
Want a Target? Lots of places that have better visibility. I like the Target in the EPA center. Check it out. All new - all fresh, very nice staff, has a Starbucks. I go to that shopping center for the Home Depot and Ikea - do not consider that another town.


No more growth
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2020 at 1:40 pm
No more growth, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2020 at 1:40 pm
8 people like this

We do not need housing here! Isn't it clear by now that this entire area is overcrowded and needs fewer people and more open space. As (hopefully) business shut down we can maybe house low income people in those spaces.

What we do need is more open space. The recent pandemic has shown us that there is not enough open green space for people to use in emergencies and also to relax. If there was we would not have been shutting down parks during the stay at home order.

This entire site should be a large park/community area. Palo Alto is over 100 acres short of what they have promised to provide to the current residents in terms of park space and we should not add more residents until this civic duty has been fulfilled.

The last thing we need is more people on the street, adding to the pollution of the area, using water we will not have due to global warming and overcrowding the area. It is time to discuss total population capacity in the city and what is sustainable for the environment and a reasonably good quality of life for the residents. Sure we can cram in more and more people like maggots - but who wants to live like that!

Make it a park and stop with all the housing blather - move the jobs elsewhere!


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 19, 2020 at 5:35 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2020 at 5:35 pm
3 people like this

no more,

If you replace commercial zones with housing and park space, you will be able to improve the city.

If you do not allow redevelopment to take place, Palo Alto will become like a slum in many areas (for example, abandoned retail, rundown houses, and empty offices). If you do not allow new buildings to replace old, the city's and schools finances will go seriously in deficit, and over time you will destroy the city. Replacing office workers will residents will actually decrease the pressure on local resources, not increase them. (Remember that school enrollments were already dropping before the pandemic).


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 19, 2020 at 5:38 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2020 at 5:38 pm
2 people like this

Palantir announced today it is moving its HQ to Denver. The residentialists must be throwing a big party right now. Please keep yours masks on and keep your distance.
(Maybe you should celebrate in Foothills Park, before the outsiders arrive).


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 19, 2020 at 10:08 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2020 at 10:08 pm
2 people like this

The specific area of El Camino where you turn to go to FRY's has a lot of construction going on. So something is happening there - if anyone knows then report.

Nothing is going on the FRY's site - it is a slab of concrete sitting there with no useful purpose. Due to construction it is even more closed off from El Camino so any accessibility to a Target would not be the best. That would be a traffic nightmare in that area because you already have a lot of traffic on Oregon EXPY interchange with El Camino.

Another company has bought SU property in the SRP complex. Lots of RE changes in process. Some nice, new housing in the FRY's location would be very compatible with access to SRP. From where I am sitting isn't that the goal here? Put housing where the jobs are so people are not getting on the freeway. If SRP is where there are jobs then housing in that area is a savings to all people in the city and it reduces the commuter complex.


Resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 20, 2020 at 5:43 am
Resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2020 at 5:43 am
3 people like this

I have a nostalgic soft spot for Fry's, the weird electronics store with random life size cowboys all over the place...

Anyhow, a giant Target logo peeking over the trees across from Gryphon would be an eyesore. What this place needs is a decent grocery store as an alternative to midtown's subpar Safeway. A Trader Joe's or something would be great. Anything but HOUSING -- the overpopulation growth in Palo Alto continues to reduce the quality of life making living in Palo Alto feel like such a rip-off... its a bad deal.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 20, 2020 at 6:57 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
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on Aug 20, 2020 at 6:57 am
3 people like this

Any large commercial business you put in there will be a traffic nightmare. The El Camino - Oregon section has the most traffic during the commutes. If you look at the Safeway on El Camino in Menlo Park it is in a large center with other businesses and has a huge parking lot. But they did a good job by putting the main entrances away from the actual intersection. And Trader Joe's are in places with huge parking lots.

All you people see is the actual store. The store comes with a parking lot and access that does not screw up major intersections. The AT&T store on the corner has a huge parking issue - that place is a nightmare to visit. And they have cut out the parking on the opposite corner with a construction of an apartment complex.
Any construction of new commercial effort has to be measured with location and available parking.

People who live in Midtown probably have no direct interaction with the FRY's location. Why are you worried about housing in a location that is not your location. The people who would be living at the FRY's location would de interacting with the SRP businesses or city hall. Not your area.


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