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Can city's big plans for Ventura be saved?

Original post made on Aug 30, 2019

The debate over the Ventura plan is expected to heat up in the coming months, as Palo Alto city leaders and residents begin to weigh changes to building heights and density.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 30, 2019, 12:00 AM

Comments (23)

26 people like this
Posted by Stop Overdevelopment
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2019 at 1:58 am

No matter how many more consultants, studies, and analyses the city pays for, this will NOT work. North Ventura already has way too much traffic and it's getting worse daily because of all the new office buildings the City has idiotically allowed to go up.

City staff now say we must help developers overcome their reluctance to keep their hugely profitable office buildings, with Sobrato's Fry's site (which is actually mostly offices) being the prime target. But since developers claim they can't make much money by rebuilding, the only way to encourage them is to allow the replacement buildings to be truly monster-sized. But that will make traffic worse yet.

Our city planners have a build-build-build fixation, and when that gives us wretched traffic and an affordable housing shortage, their only solution is to build even more. They never admit this will our make traffic and other problems far worse.

Let's instead say NO to more offices, more traffic, and endless overdevelopment. That's the best solution for Palo Alto.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2019 at 8:09 am

It is odd how, in the past, when zoning-non-conforming businesses existed, there were given a certain amount of time to conform and then shut down. Anybody remember the garage over on Middlefield on the other side from the Mitchell Park library? The garage had to shut down and be converted to high-end housing because it didn't conform to its zoning. (I had my old Chevy serviced there back in the day.) The Fry's site has been zoned RM-30 for a long tme, but, Fry's was temporarily OK because it generated a lot of sales tax revenue. Before Amazon. Now, we find out that the RM-30 housing may never happen, because, the owner doesn't want to. The site is largely office now, and will become more so soon, it sounds like. But, apparently, nothing can be done. Apparently zoning non-conformance isn't always an issue, just, sometimes.

I don't expect PACC to listen, but, on the off chance someone is listening: this town is drowning in cars. Really. Parking. Traffic. As the article states, Page Mill/ECR: "F". We seriously do not need -any- more people commuting in here.


18 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 30, 2019 at 8:59 am

What Palo Alto needs is housing that fits in with north Ventura character, additional parkland, improvements to pedestrian bike circulation, small business that’s serves residents and retention of historic assets.
will the city council have the courage to zone for this and amortize out, over a reasonable period of time, big tech firms and allow this to happen ?


25 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2019 at 11:22 am

Since the NVCAP planning process will take a while, the landowner should be told to allow Fry's Electronics to stay open until a new plan is approved. The landowner should be strongly discouraged from forcing Fry's to close while there is no new use for the building. Under the retail preservation ordinance, the Fry's space must remain as retail and not become yet more office space. It is viable as retail if Fry's is allowed to stay.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

All of your political manuevering. Reality here is that the city does have the authority to either approve or disapprove of what ever the owner wants to do. But the state has already applied pressure for housing. Suggest the city enlist the state legal department to assist on making that happen. You all sound like victims here. If housing is the priority for a large piece of land than housing it will be. Because the state says so.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Anon, If you're talking about that quonset hut garage (Manchester's Auto Repair), then that's where I took my car for repairs also, in the 60'to early 70's. Good reliable mechanics. My town has changed so much, and I'm sorry to say for the worse. We've lost all the good mom and pop retail stores. There are many reasons for it, and it's sad, but for PACC and planners to think it can be resurrected is just fantasy. Big box stores and e-commerce have killed it forever. Maximart and Red Johnson's were a couple of stores that I frequented back in the day. I've had a couple of bad shopping experiences at Fry's in the last couple years...looking for a new printer one time and ink another time. I finally went to my local store, Best Buy, (should have gone there in the first place) and found what I needed and checkout was easy and fast.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Arthur Keller. I don't think retail will be viable in that space once the rental rates are announced. Dead and gone! But let's still hold out hope for housing and no more offices. I'm in favor of zoning changes that might entice developers/builders to actually build housing. If it is so high on our priority list, why would we do anything to discourage it? The housing should have the right mix of the state's mandated criteria for all income levels, Section 8 housing should be part of the plan. Compromises might have to happen for this to become reality, but please listen to my plea...just get it done! I would love to have my gardener, house cleaner, and all those wonderful hard working people who serve me in my favorite restaurants, to be able to live in my town, along with the more educated and skilled workers...teachers, firemen, nurses, policemen, et al. They all make a community.


14 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2019 at 2:25 pm

@Gale Johnson. Some other retail might or might not be viable in that space, but Fry's does not want to leave. So why should they be forced to leave.

Another landowner couldn't get a replacement retail for the Oasis in Menlo Park. But that problem wouldn't have occurred if the Oasis had been allowed to stay.

So the City should do what it takes to allow Fry's to stay open in its current location unless and until there is a plan in place for a replacement that's viable.


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 30, 2019 at 3:01 pm

>> The intersection ... already boasts the worst-possible rating for traffic quality ("F"),
and it's getting worse.

In striving for superlatives, Palo Alto should try for the first intersection to rate "G".


4 people like this
Posted by CR
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 30, 2019 at 10:23 pm

It is indeed sad to see all the small stores going out of business. Palo Alto need to find affordable housing for teachers. I work and live in the neighborhood, but most of the teachers have long commute. Our organization has lost lots of hard working professional because of lack of affordable housing for teachers in the area. Teachers cannot afford to pay the prices that these new model apartment or homes are asking for. Google and Facebook are making it very difficult for the regular folks to survive in Palo Alto. Please make it a priority for these folks to live in around Palo Alto. I know many teachers who live pay check to paycheck and have a hard time financial. Children are our future and it only hurting the children to see their favorite teachers leaving the area because of housing. Palo.Alto.has lots of money. It would be nice to see the some.of these Silicone Valley businesses provide or donate some sort of compensation for teachers in their community. Please no more traffic.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> @Anon, If you're talking about that quonset hut garage (Manchester's Auto Repair), then that's where I took my car for repairs also, in the 60'to early 70's. Good reliable mechanics.

That is the place-- I had forgotten the name. Back in the late 70's through early 90's, cities, including Palo Alto, were trying to segregate residential and commerce/office. One of the first, locally, to buck that trend was Palo Alto Central at Park and California Ave by the Caltrain station. Nice mixed-use concept, but, an acquaintance had a unit, and, it didn't have enough noise insulation. Now, of course, developers are trying to use "mixed use" to end-around limits on office-space construction. They should be building their office space near Tracy, but, instead, are pretending to build housing here.


1 person likes this
Posted by Keep An Open Mind
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 1, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Since there is direct access from ECR & Park Boulevard, this parcel is PRIME for a number of applications.

Retail stores, office complexes, residential housing, manufacturing...just about anything.

As for the cars, we can never return to 'back in the day' traffic flow.

I know of an investor from overseas who is chomping at the bit to buy this large parcel of land with CASH & his RE agent is anxiously awaiting an opportunity to 'swing the deal' as the sales commission will be enormous.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Posted by Keep An Open Mind, a resident of Ventura

>> I know of an investor from overseas who is chomping at the bit to buy this large parcel of land with CASH & his RE agent is anxiously awaiting an opportunity to 'swing the deal' as the sales commission will be enormous.

Explain to your anxious friend that the value of property is limited by what zoning allows someone to build there. Your friend needs to buy a property with the zoning it needs to accommodate the projected development. No matter how much CASH he has, he can't build whatever he wants on a property that isn't zoned for that use.


2 people like this
Posted by The Mandarin Way
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 2, 2019 at 5:38 pm

>>Your friend needs to buy a property with the zoning it needs to accommodate the projected development. No matter how much CASH he has, he can't build whatever he wants on a property that isn't zoned for that use.

^^^Current zoning would allow this wealthy investor from overseas to use the parcel for commercial purposes (i.e. a factory or manufacturing site).

Perhaps that is what he has in mind. With the current US-China tariff/embargo, Fry's would be an ideal site to manufacture cheap (or high-tech goods) currently being made in China. HB-1 visas could also be enacted as few Palo Altans would be willing to work for minimum wage or 'under the counter payment'.

Housing for the workers could also be implemented on the land & the rent deducted from their paychecks. That's how it's done in sweatshops & coal mines...with 'company stores' to boot.

The next generation of Stanford MBAs will be studying this throwback concept as a means of ensuring a higher yield/return on employment expenditures.




2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 4, 2019 at 8:23 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We keep seeing comments about Chinese who want to buy and put businesses here. Also noted is use of H1B to start using the sites as rationale for immigration of workers.

What you are looking at is a financial model which directs taxes generated by the property out of the country and the other problem of the gig economy which is side stepping the state and federal taxes. All of these financial models are being addressed in a legislative bill which will prevent the attempts to side step the taxes due that you would expect to see for US employees, including social security and state compensation. We need taxes generated through what is the normal US business model which provides the tax base for what you all think is going to be the free for all services provided by the state and federal government.

So the current political hype is everything is free. That only works if the state has the money. And that money needs to be generated by US companies doing US work with US citizens. All of which have the taxes withheld from their paychecks which is then matched by the US company and forwarded to the respective government entities.
It would be nice if schools taught how programs are funded and how the taxes are generated. There seems to be a void in knowledge here.


8 people like this
Posted by DD
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

How does the expiration of the Fry's building's nonconforming use exemption (commercial use in residential zoning district RM-30) at the end of 2019 factor into all of this? Doesn't that prevent the property from being used for anything other than multifamily residential? Is City Council going to extend the exemption to allow the continuation of commercial use on the site? If Council doesn't extend the building can't be leased to a commercial tenant, right?


7 people like this
Posted by Zoned multi family
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 5, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Zoned multi family is a registered user.

Didn't the council direct staff to amortize out the non-conforming uses on this multi family zoned property with the expiration of the Fry's lease? Why are we even talking about continuing to allow non-conforming uses on a property zoned multi-family? Don't the city manager and planning director have the power to enforce the zoning and not give permission for any new development applications that don't conform to the zoning? Why aren't the city council members reinforcing the zoning? Or do developers have so much influence in city hall and with some council members that they can dictate what will be built regardless of zoning?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 5, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I think all of the cards are on the table here. If "the city" does anything other than enforcing a multi-family use for this property then they can expect to see their "political" life end. This is a huge piece of land in a key location that responds to every dictate being imposed by the state and county. And if apartments/condos are built then that increases the property tax level for this overall property to current market value.
And if we are including space for teachers and city staff workers then their salaries are dependent on a healthy tax base. We all know what is required here and are not going to accept some weasel word activity which eliminates all of the total values and check boxes required for this key location.
Look across Park Blvd on the backside of the property - new apartment houses. See - not hard to do is it?


7 people like this
Posted by Zoned multi family
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 5, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Zoned multi family is a registered user.

But does that mean the current status quo can continue for an unlimited time? That is the current commercial leases. Can they be renewed indefinitely?


14 people like this
Posted by Zoned multi family
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2019 at 1:07 am

Zoned multi family is a registered user.

Apparently the city council did amortize the commercial uses on the site to coincide with the expiration of the Fry's lease. However, some years ago a later council majority reversed that decision. Sobrato has powerful friends.


18 people like this
Posted by Katie
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:04 am

Will this just add to the camper parking on El Camino?

Hello - Campers Parked since August 11, 2019 on El Camino - Hazard for kids/adults biking to school, and all drivers on El Camino

Since Aug 11, 2019 4 campers have been parked on El Camino Real, near Maybell Avenue, and kids on bikes can't see around these big 4 campers, VTA and Stanford Marguerite buses drive in two lanes to get around these campers:
3 campers Beige Color, CA plates: License # 5MES671; 1LCX192; 18BES052 and 1 camper Nevada plates: U18A1N. Doesn't Palo Alto have a 72 hour parking limit?

When are our tax dollars going to have these hazard parked campers moved"


Like this comment
Posted by Zoned multi family
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:53 am

Zoned multi family is a registered user.

Katie, you can report vehicles that are parked for more than 72 hours and the city will come and place a notice on the windshield that they have 72 hours from that time to move. They will then return 72 hours later to check and if it is still there arrange for it to be towed.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Posted by Zoned multi family, a resident of College Terrace

>> Apparently the city council did amortize the commercial uses on the site to coincide with the expiration of the Fry's lease. However, some years ago a later council majority reversed that decision.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but, the property is still zoned RM-30, right? So, if Sobrato wants to re-develop, it has be RM-30. I'm sure they will want to negotiate at some point. e.g. more, denser units traded for a public benefit like some park land and more low-income housing.


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