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The era of Fry's Electronics comes to an end in Palo Alto

Original post made on Dec 27, 2019

After close to 30 years of operation, Fry's Electronics officially shut down its Palo Alto store on Friday afternoon, leaving a gaping vacancy in one of the city’s most hotly debated neighborhoods.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 27, 2019, 3:42 PM

Comments (43)

13 people like this
Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 27, 2019 at 8:58 pm

Pied Piper is a registered user.

"Earlier this year, an analysis by the city's consultant, Page & Turnbull, concluded that the building is eligible for listing in the California Register as an "individually significant" historical building because of its association with early 20th century agriculture."

Which is just really dumb. I can just see the people lining up outside to tour the old cannery plant. Not.

Demolish and rebuild already.


12 people like this
Posted by pmarca
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 28, 2019 at 3:19 am

Would be fantastic to see the Sobrato family redevelop this property or sell it to someone who can create the following:

* Mixed-use
* Tall structures (at least 6-10 stories)
* Underground and/or deck parking
* Ground floor retail
* Office space for startups
* Lots of housing!!!

We have a housing crisis, so obviously housing is the most important priority, but if done right with mixed-use, it be a great model.

Come'on PA...don't blow this opportunity!


9 people like this
Posted by pmarca
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 28, 2019 at 3:22 am

Just to clarify, I'm not saying 6-10 stories is actually "tall" for any normal region.

In PA, that would be considered tall, but in reality, it's short.

Ideally, there should be a 20-30 story building on this property and many others across PA and the region.

Limited land? Reach for the sky!


2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2019 at 3:31 am

Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou will no doubt be opposed to any development there. "The American dream is a single family home not an apartment" as they say and, by extention, no eichler or canning factory shall ever be changed as long as they are on the council.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 28, 2019 at 5:29 am

With limited acreage and huge need for housing the only practical solution is vertical. Way up. Not just six stories. I don’t like the aesthetics at all but anything less is a wasted opportunity.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2019 at 8:48 am

Even in its heyday, Frys was a problem. I can remember going there when the place was packed, the shelves were loaded, but the "paddle" system of knowing when a checkout was available and a very difficult system of returns meant that shopping there was more of an experience rather than anything else. I can remember trying to get several gift certificates to give as thank you gifts and it took a ridiculous amount of time and paperwork. Gift receipts were also hard to achieve. They then started being bettered by the likes of Best Buy. If they had done a better job of moving with the times they may have survived better.

I often used to ask myself if the hype was worth it.


11 people like this
Posted by Theman9
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2019 at 8:56 am

Who cares about Frys. They started this trend years ago with their attitude. I stopped going their once their customer service started to suck. To many brick and mortar companies are falling due to lack of CS. I for one am glad they stuck to their guns. They got what they deserved. Bye bye Frys. You will not be missed..


14 people like this
Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2019 at 10:49 am

BobH is a registered user.

I think it would be a great place for middle and low income housing. Great location, close to shopping on California Ave and Cal Train. It doesn't get better than that in Palo Alto.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Posted by pmarca, a resident of Stanford

>> Just to clarify, I'm not saying 6-10 stories is actually "tall" for any normal region. In PA, that would be considered tall, but in reality, it's short. Ideally, there should be a 20-30 story building on this property and many others across PA and the region. Limited land? Reach for the sky!

Why? What "ideal" does it serve to build buildings as tall as possible? What if other people don't share your "ideal"? Are we allowed a voice?

Note that NYC overall is the equivalent of RM-17, and, assuming normal fractions for parks, offices, and transportation, NYC density can be achieved with RM-30. You can get close to -Manhattan- density with RM-40. Isn't that dense enough for you? The Fry's site was zoned RM-30 already years ago. You can talk to Sobrato about why they haven't developed RM-30 on the site already.


21 people like this
Posted by charles reilly
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2019 at 5:08 pm


The only people who "can't afford" housing around here are the working poor. Constructing endless rows of luxury apartments does not solve that problem. Wages here are almost DOUBLE that of most places in the U.S.; so housing is expensive but not "unaffordable". Redwood City has MANY apartments for rent.


11 people like this
Posted by That MV Guy
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 28, 2019 at 7:50 pm

I still remember the grand opening. Twenty-five-cent hotdogs and cokes, and for years they sold 12-packs of Coke and Barqs root beer.

The store was only half the size it was when it closed. When you walked in, the cashier counter extended from there all the way to the back of the store along the right side. Later they acquired the other portion of the building, knocked the wall down behind the cashiers and moved the latter to the front of the new portion of the store. I will miss it.


4 people like this
Posted by Ricky Tijani
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 28, 2019 at 8:15 pm

It should be multi unit housing development for all income levels over a ground level retail/ commercial.


Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer Martin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2019 at 8:38 pm

I live in Fremont,but I just happened across this kind of hot topic.What I'm wondering is how Frys felt about the redevelopment plans changing after they already closed their doors
It kind of sounds like they were setup.Just my opinion. Also, why dont they move the historical building to a different location. They did that over here and it worked out fine.


34 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 28, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Turn the site into a lovely greenspace and park. Solve the housing problem by removing enough office space to reduce the need for housing by those 249 houses. This will also have the positive result of reducing traffic. Time to downsize Palo Alto, not prostitute our city and infrastructure to the developers greed.

As an aside, we need a maximum wage in addition to a minimum wage to keep the wealthy tech employees from disproportionately consuming resources like housing. Plenty of room in the Central Valley where highly paid tech workers can increase the tax base and actually improve, rather than degrade, city infrastructure.

Build-baby-build is for suckers.


15 people like this
Posted by III
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2019 at 8:28 am

1) 10yrs ago this area came up for months in debate.
The biggest problem was GROUND SOIL POLLUTION.
Oddly nobody seems to mention this currently. Why?

2) This area is very tight when addressing traffic.
Page Mill, El Camino, Park Ave all conjested and narrow streets.
Will this be a traffic nightmare of the future?

3) A neighborhood park, mixed housing, small biz would be my
pick of the litter.
But doubt that makes the money that land developer owner wants.
Here comes Google, Facebook, or Amazon.com


2 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2019 at 10:35 am

There are so many businesses crammed into that area already. We all know dollars will drive the end results. Low cost housing is that below $5000 / month? The small roads leading into the area is a problem Good by Fry's and good luck too the other location


7 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2019 at 10:49 am

To all the people with great ideas of what should be done with the property: you do know that it is not your property and the owner is able to do whatever they want with the property as long as it is within the zoning provisions.

/marc


26 people like this
Posted by Steve Berry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2019 at 1:47 pm

I owned the house right behind them. It was originally a vacant building (prior it was Maximart) that was supposed to turn into housing in the PA Charter in 1995. I bought my house in 90 and expected a resurgence in the neighborhood. Frys came in 92 and changed it all. The owners of the property petitioned the City Council for the charter to be changed and Liz Kniss tried to do it in 1 council meeting. After protests (me included) they finally held meetings and had groups map out their vision for the neighborhood, but ultimately Wheatly Jacobson (the property owners) got a 25 year extension. They claimed the land was so contaminated that they did not want the liability to build homes on it. But miraculously, this pollution did not make it to my property. I fought like hell, they added bright lights to the back of the store, then added more parking by buying the railway strip between me and the store. After a year of trying to sell my house, Wheatly Jacobson gave me cash at fair market value in 96. But in Palo Alto, fair market value is usually much less than a house is sold for.... PA Weekly, please note that the reason the lease is up is because the City's charter is now to build housing that should have been done 25 years ago


11 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2019 at 2:01 pm

@Marc,

That is what zoning is for. I can't build a gas station on my R1 property. Developers should not be able to screw our town infrastructure. Zone it for a park and use the money currently allocated to those useless bike boulevards fo covht the de elopes in court. Enough is enough!


3 people like this
Posted by Forest
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 29, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Traffic.

Based on the one small dataset I worked with, Palo Alto needs to spend some money to model the regional long-term traffic. With that model, they need to simulate traffic and create a plan for development and infrastructure to support that development.

Make that traffic model and simulation public in a usable format, not a big data dump and a hundred page report.

There report I read for the existing traffic model and simulation, buried way down in the report, it says the model and/or simulation has a bug because they got negative traffic (that is impossible and indicates the whole thing is junk).


24 people like this
Posted by Longtermresident
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Dec 29, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Sad to see Fry's go.. it reminds me of the Palo Alto that I grew up in 20 years ago. Back when the town hadn't been fully changed by the insane tech money and housing boom that's changed Palo Alto so much in even the past decade. The store was a hold out in the face of ridiculous up-scale changes like the bougie stuck-up overhauls of town and country and stanford shopping mall. Palo Alto is still a nice town, but it doesn't have the charm and humility that it once did.


10 people like this
Posted by Greg Hargrove
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 29, 2019 at 3:59 pm

I have been working out of an office on California Avenue for the last 15 years. For the most part I have been pleased with the on going renovations to CalAve and the surrounding neighborhood. Repurposing the former Fry's electronic site to housing would give great momentum to an already exciting trend. Preserving it as the historic former cannery that it once was is just silly. The building is run down, has no charm whatsoever, and would be no more than an officially sanctioned eyesore. Let's get real and embrace the future together!


10 people like this
Posted by Yvonne Flynn
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2019 at 9:37 pm

With the current surplus of luxury market rate housing, and falling rents, the last thing Palo Alto needs is even more unaffordable housing.

This is the perfect location for low-rise, for-sale, affordable housing. Team up with Habitat for Humanity to build the kind of housing that is actually in demand. The money should come from business taxes.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 29, 2019 at 11:48 pm

Filseth shut down the Ventura plan. The site will rot as long as he is on the City Council.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2019 at 8:51 am

Posted by chris, a resident of University South

>> Filseth shut down the Ventura plan.

Your comment is not correct, but, NVM.

>> The site will rot as long as he is on the City Council.

Are you saying that one CC member is stopping the property owner from developing according to existing zoning? "Strange."

If the existing property has a proposal on the table to develop that property as RM-30, I guess I missed it. Can you send me a link to the proposal?


4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 30, 2019 at 11:12 am

Remember when Maximart used to be in this building? Back then Maximart was a department store.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 30, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Filseth would have been the deciding vote to continue funding the Ventura planning process. He was intimidated by Sobrato.

Do you really think Sobrato wants to leave the property as is indefinitely?

They want a friendlier city council.


3 people like this
Posted by Developer's advocate
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 30, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Developer's advocate is a registered user.

Too bad for Sobrato Liz Kniss will be termed out.


4 people like this
Posted by Old Tinkerer
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2019 at 2:54 pm

@Longtermresident

I guess you may not be old enough to recall Zacks Electronics downtown, but you probably would have appreciated it.

It's a bit ironic in the way that superstores like Frys put pressure on the smaller independents like Zacks, and now it is being driven out of business by Amazon and other online retailers.

The only constant is change, I suppose, but I'm glad I won't be around when things homogenize even further in the future, and peoples' needs will be completely served by mega corporations like Bezos', whose mountains of data will predict what people need before they do.


4 people like this
Posted by Mary A
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 30, 2019 at 3:38 pm

This property was supposed to be developed into low income housing until the Fry's project came along. It's long past time.


17 people like this
Posted by Working in the area
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 30, 2019 at 4:15 pm

To BobH:

Except that low and middle income housing residents won't be able to shop on California Ave ...
The only grocery store, Mollie Stone's, is unreasonably, brazenly, and unnecessarily expensive - everything there costs couple or several dollars more than elsewhere, and they are much more expensive than even Whole Foods.
They don't have prices on half of the produce or it is not clear which price tag belongs to which item.
In addition, the cashiers make regularly mistakes (always for store's benefit), about one time out of four.


4 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 30, 2019 at 4:40 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@OldTinkerer,

I remember Zach's well and went there until it closed. Then I went to Quement on Bascom in SJ/Campbell until that one closed.

Fry's is on death's door with their stores having little product. I now use Best Buy or Amazon.

As consumers, we get exactly what we want as expressed by what we pay for. If we wanted local stores with good service, we would have them.


4 people like this
Posted by It's old so it is historic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Lydia takes her marching orders from Karen Holman. And since this site is historic, she will vote against any housing. Regardless, the pasz council Members will oppose any attempt by Palo alto to meet their housing obligations.
Now about the site. It was a Cannery decades ago. It is old, so therefore it is historic (by Palo alto standards). Think of all the tourists that will flock to see it. People will come from Europe and Asia to see it since there is nothing to match this Cannery as far as history goes in their countries. Maybe they can tie it in with a visit to the historic laundry in mountain view ( old tied house).
They may want to detect a statue to honor eichler and another to honor Karen Holmman


26 people like this
Posted by Make it a park
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2019 at 11:29 pm

This entire site needs to be turned into a park/community center for this area of town. Palo Alto is over-crowded and over-populated. We are a cesspool of air pollution, traffic is at a virtual stand still much of the day and the city is being destroyed for the benefit of rich office developers and tech companies.

We don't need high rises, we need to stand up for livability in our community and demand more amenities that we were promised by our city council. The city owes residents over 100 acres of park space based on our city's comprehensive plan at 4 acres per 1000 residents. This area will be perfect for some of what is owed to us.

The Bay Area has too many jobs and office developments. Send them to areas that need them and that will fix the housing issue without building more here and continuing to destroy the environment and our quality of life.

Sobrato doesn't want to build at the Fry's site right now because they are waiting to find a city council that will up-zone for them so they can build luxury homes and office space at high density. They know they can't get that right now because a few grown ups with brains are on the city council. If these people leave the "growthers" like Fine, Tanaka and Cormack will give developers the green light to continue to destroy Palo Alto.

One day people will look back at the city council members who tried to keep our city livable and wonder why more of them weren't elected and why the "growthers" were able to destroy so much of the city one unmitigable high rise office space building at a time. I'm hoping many smart grown ups run to protect Palo Alto at the next election and that we can get reduce the "growthers" to a minority that attempts to pass out favors to rich patrons in hopes of getting political donations.


5 people like this
Posted by It's old so it is historic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2019 at 10:15 am

Make it a park - sorry. When you come out with a statement "traffic is at a virtual stand still much of the day", the rest of what you have to say cannot be Taken seriously.
Your Statement has been repeated ad nauseum by the anti everything people. Palo alto has more than enough parks. Time fur the city to meet their housing obligations.


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2019 at 3:18 pm

This building is too dilapidated and unimportant to preserve as some kind of historic monument. Tear it down, build affordable housing with sufficient parking and move on to the future.


64 people like this
Posted by Reader X
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2019 at 5:44 pm

Guys, this building isn't Schönbrunn. It's okay if we tear it down.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2020 at 9:10 am

Posted by Reader X, a resident of another community

>> It's okay if we tear it down.

Depends on what we are tearing it down for. If we are tearing it down for more office space, then, it is not "okay". It is or was zoned RM-30. No upzoning, no fake public benefits. Housing. Everybody says we need more housing.

-No more office space.-


Like this comment
Posted by Miles
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 2, 2020 at 1:15 pm

How about that Bart station in the rendering?!


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 2, 2020 at 11:17 pm

For the first time in decades, it's impossible to buy electronic components in the Capital of Silicon Valley. We've come a long way babys


4 people like this
Posted by Stop Development
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2020 at 9:55 am

The solution to overcrowding is not to add more people. I completely agree with others that they city should take action to preserve this area for an open space. The amount of parks and open space per capital is steadily shrinking. If more housing is wanted, then developers should contribute to a fund to find more underutilized buildings, raise them, and create more shared, open, public spaces. As others have said, we are choking on people -- stores, common areas, event venues, parks, etc. PLEASE STOP TRYING TO CRAM MORE PEOPLE INTO PALO ALTO.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Posted by Stop Development, a resident of Midtown

>> The solution to overcrowding is not to add more people.

You know, Palo Alto is still pretty nice during long holiday weekends when the commuters aren't here. Let's stop adding office jobs and see what happens. Continuing to add daytime jobs while not adding housing will just Manhattanize Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Oh well...
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:59 am

Um, ok...so the Fry's property is located on a known and registered Superfund site so building underground probably isn't an option and building residential buildings comes at a risk if folks choose to live or set up residence on a chemical Superfund site I wish them the best.


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