Downtown plan could give TheatreWorks a home | March 9, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 9, 2012

Downtown plan could give TheatreWorks a home

Proposal to build office building, theater follows years of off-and-on discussion

by Gennady Sheyner

In its roughly four decades on the Peninsula, TheatreWorks has piled up raving reviews and theater awards, but one prize has continuously eluded the theater company: a permanent home. That, however, could soon change.

An ambitious plan by billionaire John Arrillaga to build a theater and a large office building near Palo Alto's downtown Caltrain station could help TheatreWorks achieve its dream of finding a place it can call its own. Theater officials have told the Weekly they have been in discussions with Stanford University and the city over the new plan and are hoping to become the occupant of the proposed theater, which would be built at 27 University Ave., the site of the historic MacArthur Park restaurant.

The project is still in its embryonic phase, but Monday night, March 5, the City Council approved 7-0, with Mayor Yiaway Yeh absent and Councilman Larry Klein recused, a staff recommendation to spend $250,000 on design work and environmental analysis. The money would be taken from a $2.5 million fund that Stanford University pledged to provide the city as a "public benefit" last year as part of the massive expansion of its hospital facilities.

If the project were to proceed, it would be a major coup for TheatreWorks, a nonprofit company that currently alternates between the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts and Palo Alto's Lucie Stern Community Center. Theater officials say the current setup creates both logistical inconvenience and confusion for patrons. Robert Kelley, the company's artistic director, said the company typically moves into a venue for a show and then packs up after about five weeks.

The new proposal isn't the first time the theater company has discussed possible collaboration with the city and Stanford University. In 1999, the city and the university explored teaming up to build a new theater at El Camino Park, just west of the site currently under evaluation. But Stanford opted in 2000 to pursue its own plan.

Kelley said that there's "tremendous virtue" to the University Avenue site, namely its proximity to mass transit, El Camino Real, Stanford University and downtown Palo Alto. The existence of other arts-and-culture facilities in the area would help establish the strip as a cultural destination.

"It's in the midst of a burgeoning arts community and an arts district that includes the new Bing Concert Hall (on Stanford's campus) and the Stanford Theatre," Kelley said.

Phil Santora, managing director of TheatreWorks, said the company is looking for a venue that could seat 600 (the same as the Mountain View center). Ideally, it would also include a smaller "flexible" space that could accommodate between 150 and 300 seats.

The new proposal has one advantage over prior discussions that Stanford and the city eventually tabled — a pot of money specifically dedicated to improving the area around the Caltrain station. The development agreement between Palo Alto and the Stanford University Medical Center specifically allocates $2.25 million to pedestrian and bicycling amenities near the border of Stanford and Palo Alto. The new proposal also has, in Arrillaga, a backer with deep pockets and a long history of major donations to his alma mater, Stanford.

Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie called the timing of the proposal a "fortunate situation" because it allows the city to consider pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the area in the context of the project. Had the proposal come in after these improvements are made, the city likely would have to make substantial modifications to accommodate the new facilities. He noted the project remains far from certain and said staff expects to come back in two to three months with more details.

"This is a very fluid and a very tentative proposal at this point," Emslie said.

Even so, council members reacted favorably to the idea of bringing a new theater to the MacArthur Park site, a project that would require the restaurant's relocation to a site of the city's choosing at the applicant's expense. The proposal also includes at least one office building and an underground garage.

"I think this can really open things up for the downtown area — make it much more integrated," Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said.

Councilman Sid Espinosa said the project has the potential to "really transform this wall between Stanford and Palo Alto.

"This can really be a transformative move for the city, and that's why I'm excited," Espinosa said. But "I'm cautious because I just want to be sure we build a process that reaches out to the neighbors, reaches out to businesses and thinks about how to really engage them."


What do you think about the idea of building an office building and theater near the University Avenue train station? Talk about this issue on Town Square, the community discussion forum, on Palo Alto Online.


Posted by Wendy, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm

How are they going to build a theater complex, office building and underground garage in the MacArthur Park location? Does this proposal include the Red Cross building, & the previously mentioned El Camino Park?
How is traffic going to be routed? University and Palm Drive are already clogged at all hours of the day; affected by El Camino, the transit center and PAMF. This is already a dangerous route full of buses, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Besides the name Arrillaga, how is this going to bring Palo Alto and Stanford closer together?!

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm

This is a paraphrase of questions Bob Moss and Herb Burok raised at council tonight, plus my own spin:

So you are going to take $250,000 of the money Stanford is giving us for approving the $5 billion Hospital "renewal" {expansion} and give it to billionaire John Arrillaga to subsidize his theatre-plus-three-floors-of-parking-underground-plus 250,000-feet-of-office-space nine story zoning be damned, move Red Cross and historic restaurant and pipe dream of a building, as a kickback, to save him from doing his own study?

Council: 7-0 in favor with Yeh fortuitously on junket to Japan Sister City. And Klein abstaining, due to a conflict.

Pat Burt: We are taking the lead here, at least that's what Mr. Arrillaga told me to say tonight. (that's a paraphrase, or what I thought I heard -- check the record)

There goes the neighborhood, indeed. There goes Democracy. Does PA mean Palo Alto or Perry-Arrillaga?

Another funny thing here: when I asked staff to see the report (or are there two?) that Richard James I recall telling me about, apropos of my initiative to revive the Varsity, staff said they could not find it. But when three or four of the local press are pre-selling the public on an Arrillaga project, they reference the reports as some kind of precedent. What I actually think the report says is that Palo Alto opted out of what became Bing. (I remember being appalled we spent $200,000 on a study of the arts rather than on arts per se).

There is a separate process for the billionaires on one side and 60,000 citizens on the other. Occupy 250 Hamilton! Or vote next June for a representative government independent of the developers.

Initially I was psyched about this because it dovetails with my work regarding 456 University. But this is so slimy and nutty that it gags me.

Gail, Karen, Greg Schmid et al will have to sell me on this. But at first glance it reminds me of Hamlet Iv: something rotten in state of Denmark.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

This also reminds me of the proposal a couple years ago when the owner of the Oakland A's baseball team said he would build at his own expense a new baseball park in Fremont the city of Fremont let him also build two billion dollars worth of housing on the baylands.

It's also unclear if we are dealing with Stanford, Arrillaga, Theatreworks or who.

Someone pointed out that the address is not even 27 University; the site may be Mitchell Lane not Uni Ave.

Also, with due respect to Theatreworks and Robert Kelley, Steve Emslie exaggerated the track record of the company: it is not an incubator for Broadway; there is one show, "Memphis" that started here and went there. Theatreworks is decent but is not Berkeley Rep or ACT.

Theatreworks should get behind reviving the Varsity and adding it as a venue. Maybe this will work, but people should try to have a say and council and staff should try to listen to us.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Gennady thank you for referencing him as "billionaire JA" rather than "philanthropist JA" like you did in previous post.

Here is Forbes link, about its list of Billionaires:
Web Link

What I recall reading is that he and partners sold $1 billion to the Saudis via USB in 2005 and then sold off another $1B the following year. So if you take in two billion dollars and give $100 million to Stanford, you're a philanthropist. (Sort of like Bill Gates having $50 billion and giving away $25 billion, that's a real sacrifice, getting by on only $25 billion).

I would say he's a brilliant and indomitable business tycoon and our council make $500 per month to try to deal with him, but generally cannot cave in fast enough.

Democracy or Demoarrillagacy?

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2012 at 11:42 pm

also i think this scheme and this reporting makes "useful idiots" of theatreworks in that it gives short shrift to Stanford LIvely Arts and theatre projects on campus.

I think the reports referenced say that we opted out of working with Stanford on what became Bing.

Also, Varsity, Arrillaga proposal, Paly Theatre, Spagenberg, Lucie Stern -- let's not forget that Cubberley is in the mix, up for renewal. Foothill's Smithwick is getting a facelift.

Dragon theatre -- now a 50 seat black box and does not want to grow much beyond that -- is looking for a new home now that their sweetheart deal is done.

I still say courting concert operators like Another Planet, Yoshi's, Golden Voice or Live Nation for 456 University is a much better idea than Arrillagaville. Or trade the post office to Chop Keenan for 456.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2012 at 11:54 pm

in the weekly's reporting of the gym in menlo park, the readers suggested in comments that part of the scheme is that in these deals they are not bid but Arrillaga builds the thing himself so gets a tax donation and then some revenue for building the thing.
Web Link

So, for 27 University, who would build it?

Philanthropy I think would be give Palo Alto cash money to bid out the builders no strings attached. This also reminds me of a bunch of rich dudes giving city $400,000 to rebuild Lytton Plaza and we taxpayers match that, but now it looks like a prison yard more than a park and Police will start hassling people "is that an amplifier?" et cetera.

Posted by Who's is bigger?, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

Quoting Mark Weiss,
>So you are going to take $250,000 of the money Stanford is giving us for approving the $5 billion Hospital "renewal" {expansion} and give it to billionaire John Arrillaga to subsidize his theatre-plus-three-floors-of-parking-underground-plus 250,000-feet-of-office-space nine story zoning be damned, move Red Cross and historic restaurant and pipe dream of a building, as a kickback, to save him from doing his own study?<

Well put, Mr.Weiss. The council can't bend over fast enough whenever a billionaire proposes something, whether it's Jim Baer, Roxy Rapp, the Lunds, Tony Carrasco, Doug Ross, Architect Ken Hays, well today it's Arrillaga. These boys have the inside track with the staff and the manager. So they build big monuments to themselves.
The question they are competing to answer is: Whose is bigger?

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:07 am

The Weekly reported in its Info Palo Alto publication that the combined value of Palo Alto commercial real estate went from $5 billion in 1985 to $25 billion today, a $20 billion delta -- so I would ask, who benefits from that gain?

And how much of that are these guys willing to pay, in pr, in election donations, to get their way every time, and what does that say about democracy?

Fair question, but not reported in these pages.

Who are the ten leading developers or land-holders in Palo Alto and who are their closest relationships on Council and Commissions?

Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:08 am

People should understand that Theatreworks is not in any sense a local theatre or community theatre. It is pretty much a one-man dictatorship (Kelly), dominated by his idiosyncratic choices of productions and ways of doing things. Also, it mostly hires professional actors from LA or NY. This of course ensures high quality acting, but creates an organization that has little to do with Palo Alto, except for the well-to-do lawyers and others in the Palo Alto establishment that seem to think that it is the epitome of theatrical art. Therefore it is very odd that Palo Alto subsidizes it and it makes no sense to hand over a new theatre to it.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2012 at 6:40 am

I find this whole topic very ironic.

1) City of Palo Alto extorts money from Stanford on claims that the hospital development will increase employment, and cause more traffic & housing issues

2) City of Palo Alto now uses some of that money to help build a new office complex (60,000 - 80,000 square feet) which brings in more workers, traffic & housing. Note that nothing is mentioned about adding housing to this office complex.

3) City of Palo Alto just a few months ago had the results a "blue ribbon" commission on infrastructure maintenance costs. City Council members talk about new taxes to do this.

4) Instead of spending money on fixing the infrastructure issues, the City uses the money from Stanford to help a developer figure out how to build a new office complex.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2012 at 6:48 am

This is a fantastic opportunity for Palo Alto. It is not everyday that someone offers to build a 60 million dollar broadway quality theatre and give it away. Let's hope our city council has the vision and foresight to allow philanthropists in the mold of Lucie Stern to stilll build public buildings, especially when the city doesn't have the money and can't even get its sct together to build a police building. Thank you John Arrillaga

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2012 at 6:53 am

@Common Sense: the money that was allocated by council was specifically earmarked by Stanford during the hospital negotiations for this area. This money is not available for infrastructure but is only available for planning and design work for this area which links Stanford and Palo Alto

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 6, 2012 at 7:55 am

This project continues to amaze. The underlying question as to why Palo Alto needs another performance hall seems to be unasked by the City, and definitely needs to be asked and answered. We (collectively) have access to: Bing Hall, the new PAUSD theater, Lucy Stern, Cubberley Theater, Dinkenspiel Hall, Bill Graham Performance Center (MV), and the MV Downtown Performance Center, all within a five mile radius. The downtown University Theater is currently idle, with the owner claiming that there is no business case for converting it to a theater. Yet, there is a business case for a new theater less than 600 feet away? Just how many performance halls can this tiny location (Palo Alto/Stanford) sustain?

And then there is the issue of why build at this location. If Mr. Arrillaga wants to build a new theater on the Stanford lands, why not pick one nearer to existing parking on the campus, rather than build an massively expensive underground parking facility?

And the issue of public safety raises its head. With the new building on the corner of Alma/Lytton, and the new hospital, and now this site, what does that do to the City’s obligations to provide both police and fire response capabilities? Remembering all of the hoopla about he current Police “building” being seismically unstable, and worrying about the building caving in on the underground parking lot—what similar concerns does that pose for the police/fire departments’ obligations to be able to provide first response, and continued rescue from an earthquake that occurs when the underground parking lot is full of people entering/exiting before/after a performance? Will the combination of these three (and other new downtown construction) require the building of a new fire station, and increased staffing?

This is a terrible location to add thousands of new car trips a day. University is already a stop-and-go parking lot. Adding all of these new trips will do nothing but put significant pressure on this location as a traffic “choke-point”.

What can these people be thinking?

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2012 at 8:41 am

@Jeff - I think it's the height of hypocrisy for the city to extort money from Stanford to "mitigate" traffic, and then use that money on a massive office building with a massive parking garage next to the train/bus center. Obviously, there is going to be little use of public transportation to this site, otherwise there wouldn't be the need for a 3 level underground parking gargage. And as a previous poster mentioned, there is no worse location to add traffic congestion to than the Alma/El Camino/University Ave location.

If I were to spend $250,000, I would do it on a study to ease the current traffic congestion at the Alma/El Camino/University Ave location, not to build a new office complex.

And where is the council in demanding that the developer mitigate traffic and provide for housing? Instead they are paying for a study that normally the developer would pay for.

Posted by Jeanie Smith, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

The ignorance about TheatreWorks needs response: it is indeed a nationally-known theatre, frequently in partnership with other similar theaters to produce and tour new works, especially new musicals. Its New Works festival is highly regarded across the country, and considered a launch pad for fuller production either at TheatreWorks or another regional venue. More than one of its shows has gone on to further development for Broadway.

TheatreWorks also runs amazing educational programs, including matinees at dirt-cheap prices so that students from all over the Bay Area can see professional live theatre, touring school shows, classes of all kinds, and a showcase for emerging young playwrights.

Yes it employs actors from elsewhere-- same as A.C.T., Cal Shakes, Berkeley Rep, SJ Rep-- ALL the big Bay Area theatre companies do that. TheatreWorks has a better track record than most for also employing locals; and all of the technical staff are local.

The company used to operate solely from Lucie Stern, but its audience size outgrew that space; so now it bounces between Stern and MVCPA-- it's a shame that so much of that revenue that could be enhancing Palo Alto's coffers now goes to Mountain View. And a shame that a terrific arts resource that was born in Palo Alto has had to look elsewhere for a place to thrive.

That anyone is questioning the need for a first-class performing arts space in Palo Alto is nutty-- we've needed one for decades. That anyone questions the quality and national reputation of TheatreWorks is just ignorance.

Posted by Amy, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

I have to agree with Wayne Martin, why do we need another theatre??? More than that we have the bus, train system and also the margaruite at the University circle. Really this is a horrible area. Take over Varsity if he needs to remodel a theatre for theatre works. Also everyone should send their emails into the council as I am not sure they read these comments

Posted by Jeanie Smith, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm

@Amy & Wayne Martin:
Wayne Martin writes: We (collectively) have access to: Bing Hall, the new PAUSD theater, Lucy Stern, Cubberley Theater, Dinkenspiel Hall, Bill Graham Performance Center (MV), and the MV Downtown Performance Center, all within a five mile radius. The downtown University Theater is currently idle, with the owner claiming that there is no business case for converting it to a theater.

Bing and Dinkelspiel are primarily filled by Stanford performing groups; both spaces were conceived as music performance venues, which means they're not optimal for theatre. MemAud is also primarily for Stanford, is a big old barn of a theatre, which is why Stanford is interested in a new performance space...
Cubberley Theatre? seriously? it's tiny, old, and barely viable-- certainly not for a professional theatre company
Bill Graham PC is for rock concerts, and is booked year-round.
MVCPA is nice, but also has to be booked way ahead of time, as it has numerous resident companies, including TheatreWorks. And it's in Mountain View. All ticket tax revenue goes to Mountain View.
Lucie Stern is a lovely old theatre, in desperate need of technical updates, and it's too small for many productions. It's also booked year-round by the three resident companies.
Downtown theatre? if you're talking about the Varsity, it has been a bookstore for many years, and would need a major influx of millions of dollars to return it to being a theatre.
Dragon Productions has a downtown theatre. Seats 45. Great company, also looking for a new theatre home after its rent got increased.
Lastly, the new performing arts space at Paly will be occupied mostly by Paly and other PAUSD performing groups-- as a PAUSD teacher, I can tell you it's much needed AND it will be hard for other entities to book it on a regular basis, as it will be in much demand by school groups all over the city. It certainly would not be appropriate to ask TheatreWorks to make that venue their "home" space.

What's wrong with a first-rate performing arts center in Palo Alto? WHY NOT? Why let all the other cities garner praise for their performance spaces? Why not attract large audiences to our downtown area, where we already have first-rate restaurants galore? I'm tired of the backwards-thinking that says we don't need a theatre space here. As a longtime theatre arts producer, director, teacher, and reviewer, I can tell you that the need is there, has been for a long time, and the longer we wait, the more our vibrant, dynamic arts community will move elsewhere...

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Although it was pre-sold to the public through three or four media outlets as a theatre project, this is John Arrillaga a billionaire hardcore jock uber-capitalist-generalissimo dictating to the all-too-willing seven-member council (with Klein drawing the hall pass "my wife works nearby" and YY in Japan, luckily for them, to not look like puppets) that he intends to build $250 million of office space (250,000 square feet times $1,000 per foot value) and toss the whiny art wimps a bone or table scrap, and call it philanthropy.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

456 University the Varsity is a simpler solution if you want to talk arts. Also, add JCC to the list of decent but not great options for performances, including live music. But The Varsity revival could be a Hedron collider of culture if it ever goes back online, excuse the hyberbole and the mixed metaphors.

I was going to blog about "Hamlet" at 221 Uni for 3 nights starting tonight and "something is rotten in the state of denmark."

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Lucie Stern is a dump and small, so I understand why they want a nice, new theatre.
The other theatres mentioned are not useful or appropriate (for example, as you know, Stanford is a wealthy, private university with wealthy donors for every possible private amenity), so that's not a basis for objection to THIS theatre idea. High calibre community theatre deserves a decent home.
However, what about traffic & parking!
If you want people to come to a real theatre- let's look at PA and Menlo Park traffic patterns our local governments have contrived. Like, let's let Alma go through (ECR) and stop this nonsense that makes local car travel difficult. Yes, some of us have to travel "cross-town" - we all do not go straight down ECR where we could take a bus.

Berkeley Rep is tops.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Here is link, back on topic, to relevant pages of council packet, especially pp.281-282 regarding the Stanford funds (Intermodal links):
Web Link

The money is supposed to be, if I can read plain English --having studied at Gunn with Farrell, Ratliff, Glass, Glendening, et al -- for improving bike and pedestrian access to Stanford -- now how did we get from that to building more office space and a theatre? (which reminds me of Tom Rowlands lectures on Capote's "In Cold Blood" and how the two men combined to form a third personality)

Wouldn't it be that much simpler to work with the landlord (CK) to get the lease on 456 University and use The Varsity for concerts, Theatreworks, lectures, ping pong tournament, et cetera? We could use those same $250,000 -- and I just ran into City Attorney Molly Stump here at Palo Alto Downtown library but forget to ask -- to advertise all the great shows and events at 456 (NOT 21) University Ave, and encourage dear citizens to bike or CalTrain to these events?

Who is with me?

We could lure, using the $250,000 to $2.5 million in Stanford hush money I mean Intermodal Whatnot advertising budget a world class presenter of attractions such as Another Planet, Golden Voice, Freight and Salvage or Yoshi's. Or man on the 7 Tommy "Bubba" Fehrenbach has already been polling some of these industry icons - and our own Danny Scher -- to advise here, and he told me, that despite what he and Steve Emslie told the Post, 456 is so do-able.

We can do it! Yes, we can!

Paging Mark Simon -- you with me, bro?
Any body?

Posted by Carol, a resident of University South
on Mar 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm

This would be an ideal use for the Varsity building!

Posted by Martin, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Rebuild the Varsity Theater instead, and bring it back to life ... Please!

Posted by Ethan Cohen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I totally agree with Mrs. Smith, and about the Varisty downtown, it was built as a movie theatre and although it may not seem that way to the audience there are huge differences between the movie theatres and those used for stage productions. Also the JCC theatre falls in the same category as Cubberly, its tiny and certainly not suitable for a professional company. Palo Alto has gone far too long without a professional level theatre. Bing will do it for music but we need a facility for the stage.

Posted by been there, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:19 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by gift horse, a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

Sometimes it's good to look a gift horse in the mouth. Yes, a new theater would be wonderful. Yes, help from a billionaire would be wonderful. No, this location would not be wonderful. In fact it would be really, really bad. Traffic in this intersection area is hideous now, with very little current demand other than the train station and Mac Park restaurant. What happens to the sports fields and existing businesses there? What happens to "transit oriented development" next to a transit center?

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Ok, now I remember: did the Weekly censor and delete the part where i suggest that calling the applicant and athletic hero a "philanthropist" regarding the deal where he donates a theatre but builds for his own use $200 million in office space, and we are talking about the terminology here not the person per se -- its not an ad hominem I am commenting on the terminology to describe the actions or proposed actions here - and I did laud GS for going from "philanthropist" in first reference of previous story to "billionaire here" I said something about the supposed scientific fact -- and my fellow Gunn grad and sometimes kinda sorta neighbor Anne Wojsicki the founder of 23andMe could comment authoritatively here -- that millions of people on the Asian continent have the genetic marker allegedly traceable to Genghis Khan -- and I quickly found a suitable citation, to a reputable I think it was MSNBC corroboration of the facts --

I said it was like calling Genghis Khan a pioneer in family values.

Is that what Palo Alto Weekly is censoring?
After how many complaints?

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I watched part of the city council meeting on this topic, and a couple items mentioned that were left out:

1) The office complex would be up to 250,000 square feet

2) Building could be as high as 85 feet.

This is one big office complex.

Posted by been there, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Yes, MW, the Genghis Khan - I loved it - the best thing I'd seen on here! And a link to a restaurant where you got a discount if related to him, or some such thing. Very amusing stuff, and then: censorship. But after all, people do deify billionaires, so of course there are things that have to be erased.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

If we are going to call the new theatre or office complex the Steve Jobs Center I would have absolutely no problem although people might confuse it with the Opportunity Center, which coincidentally used to be located at the same 27 University/400 Mitchell Lane parcel.

What is funny is that no one mentions that this plan would also evict and relocate the executive of the business district Russ Cohen and come to think of it Chamber of Commerce who are trained not to comment on these issues -- although Russ did bark at me once for calling him a "mouthpiece" for business. He is much much more. (and he is the one who dug up the phrase "There Goes the Neighborhood" regarding opposition -- independent of PaDBID -- re HSR. Until HRC (human relations council) set him straight: it's racist.

I don't think mentioning Genghis Khan is racist but I would love to hear rationale from Weekly on why it was deleted.

Meanwhile Nancy Shepherd pinged me back to say she laughed out loud when apropos of this whole thing she was reading about James Lick (which is funny in itself, and reminds me I have a paper due at Foothill about obscenity and Jeannette Walls) and how there was discussion of building in his honor as his legacy a pyramid higher than Giza.

Regarding Arrillaga, and although they are known mainly for football and basketball, I did play in Saratoga Little League overlapping but never stepping to plate against Jeff and Randy, in 1973, the developer spoke first but we the 59,000 99-percenters get last licks.

If they delete reference to Lick, James LIck, last licks or Jeannette Walls then we really do have a problem here.

Posted by kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

The is a very INAPPROPRIATE PLACE for a theater attracting a mega-amount of vehicles. Think about commute traffic getting through to the Dumbarton Bridge.
Think about the possibility (shudder) of HSR. Think!! And what DOES happen to MacArthur Park Restaurant - an historic piece of architecture....or did Arrillaga also
have a solution for that? Downtown Palo Alto used to be lovely,but now it is a mess with 'prison architecture', a cold-impersonal-unattractive Lytton Plaza that already had a lovely 'floor" .It needed soft, wrought iron lighting, wrought-iron tables and chairs rather than this shiny metal, Who are the so-called civic leaders who designed this plaza WHAT are the qualifcations of the Architectual Review Board- and Planning Commission. $$$ talks in Palo Alto. The rest of us have no say-so. This is a done-deal.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

An elected official called me and told me that he found my comments very amusing. He reminded me that what was also removed, besides the Genghis Khan bit, was my description of YY and LK being spared having to tell Mr. Arrillaga that this was not going to happen. I guess my stylings have something to do with the amount of Dickens we read and that Mr. Farrell introduced we editors of the Oracle to Hogarth.

Klein scratched his head, and reminisced about the cool winds coming over the Keys while the sweat dried on his manly young Harvard-bound brow, under his football helmet; he craved lime pie, a larger portion, son of the immigrant he was, "more sir" something about a book he read earlier that day in Mrs. McGillicudy's class -- he liked her feet, always clean; "I cannot vote. I am a moral citizen. My wife. She works. I am not too proud to admit. She too (like Ms. McGillicudy) is a teacher. I gotta pee. Buh-bye."

with apologies to T.C. Boyle....

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 11, 2012 at 11:28 am

I'm far less concerned about the traffic impact than I am the potential financial impact to tax payers. I'm certain that the majority of the performances and events will take place during non-commute hours, at least the peak time.

Even with this generous grant, our city leaders and elected officials have to consider the additional costs that will fall in our laps. As desirable as this project might be, and as deserving as it is to Theater Works, I have to believe that depending on the additional cost it could be a luxury we simply can't afford. The city is still facing enormous financial difficulties and annual budget deficits. There are many vital and essential infrastructure needs the city must attend to prior to taking on a project like this. This theater is desirable, but certainly not essential. First things first. Priorities first.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Wouldn't it be nice and a fab solution to politely pitch the benefactor to sponsor the entire thing, build to suit TheatreWorks, and that would solve everything. He has the resources. His name would be on it prominently! What a great gesture to put a mark on the local cultural life here(I can actually think of one or two other possible major local benefactors for this special opportunity...)
Then the theatre company could operate it and handle that angle going forward.
I am sympathetic to performing arts needs here but also leery of taxpayer money going into this...WE are not billionaires.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by David Zink-Brody, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

MacArthur Park, I believe, is a Julia Morgan historic building.... will it be moved? Does it show in the site plan or has the Developer or City commented?

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Web Link

(staff confirmed yesterday after public hearing that original Arrillaga concept was a ginormous tower and monument to ego and they suggested it would go over slightly better if there were an arts element...)
Or as Arrijohnson would say "Very interesting...but stupid".

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