Palo Alto banks on private donors for new public gym | March 11, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 11, 2022

Palo Alto banks on private donors for new public gym

Death of philanthropist John Arrillaga, who offered $30M for facility, leaves city looking for other funders

by Gennady Sheyner

As Palo Alto advances its plan to build a public gym, city leaders are banking on local philanthropists to step up and help the city fund the project.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by WhatAboutme
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2022 at 12:28 pm

WhatAboutme is a registered user.

John Arrillaga passed away. He did not 'leave[s] city looking for other funders.

PA Online and/or council members are 'looking' for funders (donors).

Always pleas for more 'donors' in PA. From council members to these writers on PA Online.

Very sad to hear of his passing, I'm sure if his legacy wanted to donate, they would.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2022 at 1:17 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Once again. Kids need outdoor skatepark. Greere’s has out lived it’s life — is dark, out of the way and UNSAFe. Capital projects are good yet where is there funding for staffing and coaches and registration admin staffing. The current recreation staff is underfunded and spread very very thin. I vote for the cannery warehouse and packing plant be used. Perfect space for everyone. And plenty of parking.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 8, 2022 at 2:04 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Wouldn't locating a gym on the far side of 101 in the Baylands be just about the most inconvenient, farthest, and least accessible location for the majority of our neighbors who live within the borders of Palo Alto? Encouraging driving as the fastest, most practical, and possibly safest access for those who are time constrained, as I'm guessing many if not most of our neighbors are. The lands adjacent to the bay are much more suited for golf and field sports that can be allowed to flood in the case of an emergency.

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 8, 2022 at 6:03 pm

tmp is a registered user.

The city council needs to seriously commit to finding a way to convert the Fry's site and parking lot into Gym and community space and a large open park. This is located in a part of town that needs more urban park space and the entire city needs more gym and community space. The comprehensive plan calls out adding more park space when the population increases, yet the City of Palo Alto has ignored taking care of current residents and spends its time adding more residents. It is time to reverse this and negotiate for control of the Fry's area and get something done for residents.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2022 at 11:34 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

My understanding is that a new public gym wasn't a project the City was considering until John Arrillaga proposed it and offered $30 million for it. With all respect, why is the City still pursuing this project now that they no longer have a funding source? The pandemic blew a nearly $40 million dollar hole in the City's budget, and most of those funds and the services they provided have not been restored. The City should focus on restoring those services before dedicating time and funds to a new project. The City Council is enthusiastic about raising money from private donors? Great, they can raise money to restore library service and Children's Theatre plays, Art Center exhibits and Baylands Interpretive Center hours, and how about the Crosstown shuttle while we're at it?

Once these programs and more are restored--staffing levels in the police and fire department are still critically low, as I understand it--we can talk about raising money for a new gym.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2022 at 9:11 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@jerrmy Exactly right. Pickle ball has power over CC. Kiddo’s come last. Does PA need another empty building because can’t pay for custodial to extra clean COVID mitigation. Can barely provide toilet paper for its own staff needs. And surely not reimbursing for work from home city employees.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2022 at 9:20 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Our teens need more to do. When mine were teens, we had Palo Alto Bowl, Laserquest, Mini golf and racing cars (can't remember the name) in Redwood City, and now the only entertainment venue is Winter Lodge. The Y used to have pick up basketball on Friday nights, but these were stopped with the pandemic, although I was told they were usually looked on as extra practice for school basketball teams and anyone else could barely get the ball.

It is not every teen who does organized sport either by choice or by talent, but all teens deserve the chance to hang out in a non-competitive activity. Looking back on my own teen years, these hangouts are my happy memories of that time in my life.

We say we value youth mental health and yet providing youth the ability to hangout with peers, make new friends from different schools and to enjoy time away from school seem to be very low on the list of priorities of City Council.

Let's put the teens first. I cannot comment on a skate park but it does sound that it will only serve those with that type of interest and ability and is very weather dependent.

Something for our teens will help their well being, their mental health, and benefit all of us as a result.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2022 at 5:25 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Advocating for and being the council face of this rather recent proposal for a city gym/recreational center would certainly raise council member Cormack's city-wide profile, and if successful a feather in her cap. Although compared to other urgent city needs following the disastrous economic downturn of the last two years not previously on the city's list of priorities at this moment in time.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2022 at 8:08 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

Don't we have something like a $750 MILLION annual budget?

The days of garages and innovation are an orgiastic past that is (year by year) receding behind us. I never imagined one could do so little with so much.

Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2022 at 10:01 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

I really like the way Mountain View built two large public gyms on their middle school sites. They can be used by the schools during the day, and that must help with maintenance, and then offered to the public in the evenings for reasonable rents, and they are large enough that there is just one city staff for 2 good sized basketball courts in the evenings. For years me and several surrounding friends (and one friend from Mountain View) rented a half gym for a weekly game there.
In Palo Alto land is expensive. Why not a double height building with twice the courts? Big like the new parking garage.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 12, 2022 at 10:10 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

This topic brings up the bigger issue as to how the city is managing the budget available. Our first concern is paying the employees and bills associated with our city use of water, energy, trash pick-up, street cleaning, drain cleaning, etc.
That is basic accounting any home, business, city needs to do. The remaining money - how being used?

When I look at the PACC meetings they are approving contracts for consultants. Another problem is advocacy groups that are looking for taxpayer support for their schemes - not appreciated by me. We need to look at the discretionary budget available and scrub out the non-essential and focus on what gives the best value for the city in total. Funding advocacy groups is not a qualifier of good spending.

This gym is a high value for the city and benefits all residents of all ages. If we are funding people to think about batteries being used to provide electricity then forget that. Waste of time and money - batteries need exotic minerals to operate that we do not have. Use the money we have to provide the best value for all of the residents.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 14, 2022 at 3:56 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Robert Neff, above, has a great idea. Why not a double or triple height building with twice the courts? Let's go higher since we have limited space! All our schools should be higher too!

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2022 at 9:45 am

Annette is a registered user.

Building a City gym is arguably one of the most important steps this City can take towards supporting the physical and mental health of its youth. One way or the other we are going to pay for the pandemic's impact on our kids. It makes a heap more sense to spend money on positive programs than on remediation. We ought to be able to figure out the staffing, maintenance and other costs.

If one supported the proposal to build a city gym when a specific private donor was offering to donate $30M, it makes sense to also support the proposal when the funding will come instead from multiple private donors. I do wonder, though, why the Arrillaga gift is no longer viable. I doubt the answer is money. I think there were a few stipulations regarding land donation and design/construction control; maybe the stipulations are the reason. And maybe influential Anne Cribbs can persuade the Arrillaga heirs to donate if Palo Alto gets out of its own way and moves forward on this. She's good; if anyone can shepherd this project through to completion, she can.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2022 at 10:31 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Thank you Jeremy for mentioning all the services which were de-funded during the pandemic and have yet to be restored.

I can mention a few more: numerous dead or removed trees, whose stumps litter our parking strips and have yet to be replaced. Or the broken/raised sidewalks that present real tripping hazards to our aging population. Or the ever increasing amount of trash seen everywhere one looks.

Or the continuing and ever growing issue of unfunded pension plans.

1 acre of land for a gym = $20M. If a gym is built please add several stories of "worker" housing.

Collect donations for the gym or gyms and add the housing. Without the added cost of land, the "worker" housing could be quite reasonable. Make an exception and go above the limit of 50 feet.

It could be a real win-win. For Ms. Cribbs not Ms. Cormack.

Maybe the CC can answer Annette's excellent question: why was Mr. Arrillaga's generous donation removed?

Thank you.

Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 15, 2022 at 10:34 am

BobH is a registered user.

I think the short answer to the article headline

With $30M offer off the table, how will city fund new gym?

is that it won't fund it. Unless someone else steps up, this isn't likely to happen.

Posted by MBH
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2022 at 10:54 am

MBH is a registered user.

Hmmmm . . . please explain to everyone what will happen with the gym at Cubberley? I don't see that it is being used very much, although I could be wrong. Could that be renovated? There is certainly plenty of parking. And considering the state of the Palo Alto electric grid, I would rather the city would direct serious money to that.

Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2022 at 7:03 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

The city is planning to spend $98M (it will be more) on building a fiber-to-the-premises system and will go into competition with two of the largest communication companies in the world.

We need to be thinking about whether this is a priority.

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