Town Square

Post a New Topic

Editorial: After 45 years, it's finally time to seize the opportunity to build housing on the soon-to-be former Fry's site

Original post made on Sep 6, 2019

The long, zigzagging history of why housing doesn't already exist on the Fry's Electronics site is a portrait of one of the city's saddest planning failures of the last half-century.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 6, 2019, 6:40 AM

Comments (30)

10 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:40 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

In Redwood City a new development is starting in the Broadway / Woodside Road location that will support the growing SU campus personnel. It is a very impressive plan. SU is expanding it's campus and already has a hospital in this 101 vicinity. Suggest that PA check out the overall plan for that location which is including the access to Caltrain. Also a new ferry system is planned for RWC which will cut down on commuter traffic. Since that plan has been approved and is starting now it has cleared the roadblocks typically expected for such a large development.
The PA site is approximately the same size and can borrow much of the floor plan already approved by the state. Also the Fry's site is bordered by Park Avenue / Caltrain tracks which suggests that a transit coordination point can be added to the overall plan. Check out what other cities are already doing to address the requirements from the state for housing near transportation since these plans have already gone through the approval process and have approved building sizes and amenities.
Any assumption by anyone - including Sobrato - that this is a start from scratch endeavor are absurd. Also include Menlo Park which is going to build a tunnel starting at Alma / ECR can be added in as part of the planning process. MP is currently going through the same transitions and has approved plans.

Since every other city in our surrounding vicinity is already "in-process" then any suggestion that we are starting from scratch for this site is absurd. Do not even go there. Do not suggest that huge amounts of money for consultants is required. Tired of the "consultant" route when there are already successful projects that have been approved and are in process. That is what a successful company is suppose to do. Their job.


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 8:47 am

>> The city needs to immediately begin working with Sobrato and neighbors to proactively negotiate and design housing development alternatives and incentives

"Incentives?!?!?!?"

In other words, the city is afraid of Sobrato and its lawyers. What a dumb way to start what looks to be a nasty negotiation. I propose that the city begin condemnation proceedings. The city desperately needs more park land, since the existing parks are teeming and sprawling with visitors. If we turn it into a park, that will reduce traffic compared to the existing offices that are already located in around the Fry's building. What was the land worth when it was simply zoned RM-30 before the city started hedging? That is what the city should pay for it.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:00 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

You are correct - the Sobrato company is already negotiating for incentives - Tax Breaks. The whole point of new development is to change up the property tax value so we can pay for our teachers and city staff personnel. We keep talking about this and keep ending up in the dumpster. Either the city staff understands how to manage property or it doesn't. And if not then get new city staff.

Check out Sobratos' web page. Yes - they build a lot of buildings. But read further a lot of those buildings are sold to other entities. The fact that they are paid to build does not translate to further involvement after the buildings are built. And they make their profits on the sales.

And suggest that our local newspapers do not pander to any mysterious quandary over the development of this land. Get on top of the situation.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:26 am

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> You are correct - the Sobrato company is already negotiating for incentives - Tax Breaks.

"Incentives". Just what we don't need-- tax breaks, and office space.

If the city is going to cave in completely, then, forget about affordable housing and just let Sobrato build 300 "deluxe" units for "relaxing and recharging". Web Link . No tax breaks. Build a wall between it and the rest of Ventura, and call it a day. Let's not drag this out and pretend we care about affordable housing. The city needs taxes. At least maybe the city can get every parking space equipped with 400kW DC fast chargers Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 9:45 am

Perhaps, as the City is advocating for so many EV charging stations, the Frys site should become a mecca for EV charging. So that local residents who don't have parking spots at their homes they could come here to charge overnight, or while they work, and have City shuttles to get them to their homes and work places while their EVs charge.

Just a practical suggestion to help the City achieve its goals. :)


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 10:07 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

At some point the city needs to publish it's goals and priorities and report on how it is meeting those priorities. We keep reading about what the County and State are requiring of each city. And further suing them if the cities do not move out and act on what the state is requesting. The State is requiring us to provide new housing as a top priority of the state - and therefore the city. And we are not addressing the homeless here - we are addressing the teachers, utility workers, service - police and fire workers in our community. So city - what are you doing about the priorities?

Publish the priorities and address what you are doing.

Guess what - the Fry's site can address the majority of those priorities and get the county and state off our backs. And do a job to help our local residents who are working to keep our city safe.


6 people like this
Posted by It's historic
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 6, 2019 at 11:04 am

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by HKS resident for 40 years!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Have Palo Alto Tax Payers VOTE to change the zoning for the Fries Area to Residential. If Sobrato is only interested in making $8.00 a sq ft as they are now, then PA could make a substantial deal to renovate the property, lease the apartments and provide Sobrato with $8.00 sq ft while PA Leases for the fairest rate, plus realizes other financial gains from other sources. I’m sure if there truly is a will to improve the living standards of the Palo Alto Ventura Community to the 21st Century then there are creative ways to make it happen.

PA could ask Sobrato what theyvwould do if they were the PA City to maje life better for all the PA Ventura Home Owners, Business Owners and Lease Holders


3 people like this
Posted by Fr0hickey
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Fr0hickey is a registered user.

It has a 35 foot height limit. Until that is changed, there is no reason to make this residential.


7 people like this
Posted by HKS resident for 40 years
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 6, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Since Fry’s is a historic site, why not create a statue, fountain, sitting area, trees, plants and a include well written biography of the owner and company, why it’s historic, and give the apartment complex the name of the owner to commemorate the site, I’ve lived in PA for 40 years and did not know until this month that it’s a Historic Site!

PA has got to stop being dysfunctional and be a Silicon Valley leader in so many areas to improve the lives of it’s citizens.

El Camino in the Ventura corridor needs a serious face lift. Level the buildings, raise apartment amd condo buildings with restaurants, cafes with books (limited internet), boutique retail, and other amenities on the street level. Include landscaped areas with trees, plants and water fountains with benches. Encourage people to feel welcome, safe and more relaxed. Improve everyone’s lifestyle by providing beautiful safe spaces to live


2 people like this
Posted by Compression Is The Answer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2019 at 1:06 pm

A Chinese developer with experience building those highly compressed housing units one sees in China could easily maximize the square footage of the Fry's area by cramming as many residents possible into a network/campus of smaller housing complexes.

This might help to alleviate some of Palo Alto's housing shortage & tenant owned cars could also be outlawed in order to use the space for more housing rather than to accommodate parking.

The tenants would then be relegated to walking, using mass transit or bicycles...a Palo Alto dream from the standpoint of decreasing future road gridlock.

While this arrangement might be akin to living like sardines in a can, as long as the older & more affluent PA residents didn't have to deal with it, who cares?

The Chinese residential model is a Millennial's dream.


3 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2019 at 1:36 pm

Build, baby, build! Tear that clunker down and let's get some 10 story apartment complexes going!!


3 people like this
Posted by PhilB
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 6, 2019 at 2:38 pm

PhilB is a registered user.

The Fry's announcement should not have been a surprise. That store has been going downhill for years now. The City should have anticipated that at some point "not that far off from now," Fry's would shut down.


4 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:16 pm

PhilB,

The city anticipated this is 1984 before Fry's moved in. It is the current leadership and residentialists who are trying to sabotage the plan.

Sobrato will just leave the building vacant until the NIMBYs are swept out of office
or sued into oblivion by the state.

Filseth and his cronies have run out of excuses for not allowing housing to be built.


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Posted by PhilB, a resident of St. Claire Gardens

>> The Fry's announcement should not have been a surprise. That store has been going downhill for years now. The City should have anticipated that at some point "not that far off from now," Fry's would shut down.

The city did anticipate it. The city assumed that the developer wanted to develop housing. The city was wrong-- read what the Sobrato representative said.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South

>> The city anticipated this is 1984 before Fry's moved in. It is the current leadership and residentialists who are trying to sabotage the plan.

>> Sobrato will just leave the building vacant until the NIMBYs are swept out of office
or sued into oblivion by the state.

I'm a NIMBY residentialist and I want affordable housing built. Not office buildings. Affordable housing. As was planned for and assumed for 30+ years. Sobrato doesn't want to build affordable housing. Feel free to talk to Sobrato about it.


2 people like this
Posted by Let The Chinese Develop Fry's Site
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:48 pm

>> A Chinese developer with experience building those highly compressed housing units one sees in China could easily maximize the square footage of the Fry's area by cramming as many residents possible into a network/campus of smaller housing complexes.

>> Build, baby, build! Tear that clunker down and let's get some 10 story apartment complexes going!!

^^^ Yes. Hong Kong style. One person per square foot will alleviate the PA housing problem.


21 people like this
Posted by Don't give away zoning to help developers
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2019 at 12:41 am

The city, per the comprehensive plan, owes the current population of Palo Alto over 100 acres of park land. This is the perfect spot for a large park. Turn the historic building into a community center and use this area for the quality of life needs of the residents of Palo Alto.

We don't need more office space (and the city has done a good job with the office cap), nor do we need to crowd in more residents. All areas of the world have a sustainable carrying capacity and the entire Bay Area has exceeded it. Palo Alto has exceeded ours. That is why we have some of the worst pollution in the US, some of the worst traffic in the US, so many imperiled species and destroyed waterways to name a few environmental problems.

It is time to set an example and establish a population size for Palo Alto and a plan for how to sustain it and provide for it. We have to start by not overpopulating, overbuilding and destroying the natural world. We need to save the Fry's area for open urban space and park space and for the residents who live here. Nothing can continue to grow forever - especially our city's human population.


10 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 7, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

We are stil behind in our acres-per-resident policy regarding park land.
How about a major park in the Ventura?
Property values there, lagging behind the rest of town, might rise.
Or let's cater to the needs of powerful developers and hypothetical future Palo Altans.
The choice is (not) ours.


4 people like this
Posted by some guy from atherton
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 8, 2019 at 1:12 am

@ everyone who wants to turn Fry's into a park

Sobrato apparently bought this property for 70-80 million dollars during the depths of the recession. Its fair market value has probably increased since then.

Web Link

Where's Palo Alto going to get the money to buy this property?

@Don't give away zoning to help developers

> All areas of the world have a sustainable carrying capacity and the entire Bay Area has exceeded it.

Do you have a source for this? I don't believe carrying capacity is relevant here because the Bay Area and Palo Alto import the necessities of life (food, water, etc) from the rest of California and the world. The carrying capacity of the land doesn't matter because we're not living off the land.

> some of the worst traffic in the US

Arguably this could be easily fixed by building more housing in Palo Alto, so people don't need to drive dozens of miles each day from home to work.

@Let The Chinese Develop Fry's Site

Yes. Hong Kong style. One person per square foot will alleviate the PA housing problem.

I agree. Just like Hong Kong, Palo Alto has an artificial housing crisis created by government policies that restrict the creation of new housing and forces people into sub-optimal living arrangements.


11 people like this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2019 at 1:22 am

While I am agnostic about using the Fry's site to build dense housing, the irony (chutzpah?) of someone from Atherton (minimum lot size 1 acre) suggesting that Palo Alto needs to do so is striking. Just imagine how much housing could be created, and think of the development profits to be made, if Atherton were to be rezoned to say 10 residences per acre! As to increased housing, the elephant in the room is clearly the issue of whether or not the existing infrastructure is sufficient to support those additional people. This means transportation, schools, parks, and water at a minimum. I think that is what is meant above by "carrying capacity", i.e., the phrase is used in a metaphorical and not literal (ecological) sense. It would be great if folks like Scott Wiener et al. who want to force the creation of additional housing in places like Palo Alto would explain how our schools, roads etc. would be able to handle the additional load. If this can be done, I suspect that many here would be more supportive of dense housing friendly policies.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 8, 2019 at 10:07 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I am sick of people in Crescent Park talking about Chinese development of this site.
Our city and state priorities right now are providing houses for teachers, service people - police and fire - city workers. The people who work in this city to make it work. Add to that the upgrade in the property taxes from which the salaries of these people are derived. Any "deal" with a Chinese Company would side rail all of the requirements we have on the books right now.

As to Sobrato they appeared in a SFC article about a gala event attended by Newsome and Pelosi of all of the great things they are doing in the state. All of the great things includes building livable spaces - so they know how to do this.
As to building height look across the street on Park - new buildings. If you have new buildings on Park then you can have new buildings on the Fry's site. The zoning has to be complimentary.
If anything else can the city please appeal to Sobrato's desire to remain a "noble beast" enhancing the peninsula to the better. If nothing else it enhances their profile if they get applause and attention to add to their portfolio. And they can sell it to a management company who will then take over. It is called doing business. And the management company will have to be a US company that is making sure that the taxes are fed back into the city, county, state, and US gov.


2 people like this
Posted by Zoned multi family
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Zoned multi family is a registered user.

Could Sobrato's stance be a negotiating ploy?


2 people like this
Posted by Tirn Frys Site Into A Small PA Chinatown
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm

>> A Chinese developer with experience building those highly compressed housing units one sees in China could easily maximize the square footage of the Fry's area by cramming as many residents possible into a network/campus of smaller housing complexes.

>> Yes. Hong Kong style. One person per square foot will alleviate the PA housing problem.

>>>I am sick of people in Crescent Park talking about Chinese development of this site.

^^^ Since the Chinese demographic has increased substantially in Palo Alto (40% and growing), developing the Fry's site as Palo Alto's own 'Chinatown' with Chinese restaurants, Chinese grocery stores, import shops, herbalists, a tai chi center & compressed residential dwellings makes certain sense.

San Jose has Little Saigon, its own barrio (East Julian) & a small Japantown. San Francisco has the Mission District (its own barrio), the venerable Chinatown & a Japantown/Fillmore District as well.

Since many of the newly arrived Palo Alto Chinese are from the mainland/People's Republic, a 'Little Bejing' would be unique.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2019 at 3:22 pm

I recently heard of a family (the wife works somewhere I frequent so I know her vaguely) with a young child who live in a studio apartment and have lived there for around 10 years.

It is wrong to assume that studios or one bed apartments will be just starter homes. Small apartments will just be cheaper places for families to live and they will still have school age children. They will still have/want/need cars, bikes, places to play, places to have parties, places to cook outside, places to socialize and places to take some R & R.

Don't cram in more housing without providing more space for all the other things people need to do. Our infrastructure is overstressed already.


11 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Most of the people who are residing at the new condos and apartments on San Antonio near Safeway are NOT teachers, or city workers for any city. Just saying.
And this applies to the Alma street development as well - all those homes crammed in back of Grocery Outlet. They are not Facebook, Google, or Tech Workers.
Most are self employed doing whatever they claim to do - importing plastic inflatable swimming pools from Taiwan (that is one person I know and am friends with).
A lot of foreigners bought these places and simply rent them out to new people coming here but not working in tech.
I know we can't control this, but to think any new dense housing is going to solve our housing crisis for local workers is simply an illusion.

By the way, Tencent is right across the street from this development.

Those people work for the PRC under the guise of being a gaming company.
They are NOT - that is not what they want you to believe.
Everyone in cybersecurity can elaborate on this for you. I won't.
Why are they here right in our face everyday anyway?

Ask any Google employee what they are up to.

Meanwhile, I still stand by what I say about this project not being able to solve our local housing needs for teachers, city employees, and local small business owners. They will simply have to rent back from the big buyers overseas.

Meanwhile there are many people of all nationalities who are Asian-American (Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese-American), Hispanic, and locally born White and African American folks) who are business owners here with kids, work locally, and they truly need housing.




16 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2019 at 11:51 am

The best use for the Fry's site would be a park, but the city council members who have funded their political careers with real-estate industry money need to pay the devil his due.

The money-first faction of Democratic Party in San Francisco and on the Peninsula has been fused with and is now an essential partner in the real-estate industry.


2 people like this
Posted by In Private Circles...
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

There is some talk among the newer & wealthier PA residents from overseas that purchasing the Fry's site has promise...providing they can convince the PACC & Planning Department to go about things as they please.

Given the past history of development in PA, this seems feasible.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2019 at 1:38 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

WOW - just what we need - a bunch of overseas investors doing what ever they want. And if the PACC and planning commission go along with that then they will encounter trouble.

Right now we are in the business of taking care of the city, county, state requirements for housing with a portion allocated for the BMR. Do they expect to give a pass on that piece of property then go ahead to satisfy the requirements on the single family home owners?

You all will never live that down and you can kiss your future political careers goodbye.


Like this comment
Posted by Not Public Land
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Just reminding people with demands like turning this into a park, etc. that this property is NOT public land. The city can't just decide to turn this property into a park, as this would constitute illegal taking of private property. While the plan could include a park (with increased density, more open space is feasible), Sobrato isn't going to spend money to redevelop this property unless they can turn a profit (Would you work for no pay?). If it's not financially feasible to build something new, nothing will happen and Sobrato will maintain the status quo of a large parking lot and an ugly building.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Posted by some guy from atherton:

>> Sobrato apparently bought this property for 70-80 million dollars during the depths of the recession. Its fair market value has probably increased since then.

So, per capita, a little over $1K for each of us. Let's buy it. We need a big park in that location. But, I know that ABAG and its successors want housing. OK, let's buy it, dedicate a nice chunk along Matadero Creek to parkland, and make the rest of it low-income, affordable, and BMR housing. How many units per year do we need, and how far behind are we in units?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

DoorDash is opening a shared delivery kitchen in Redwood City. What does that say about the future of the restaurant industry?
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 3,051 views

What did you learn last week?
By Sherry Listgarten | 11 comments | 1,755 views

Bond. Bond Touch.
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 745 views

The holiday season
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 716 views

Free speech – Zuckerberg’s version and mine
By Diana Diamond | 3 comments | 208 views