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Can they do that? Construction hums along in Palo Alto

Original post made on Mar 27, 2020

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit Santa Clara County, some in Palo Alto have questioned the need for the new garage near California Avenue. Now, it is deemed an "essential project," with work progressing despite the shutdown.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 27, 2020, 5:33 PM

Comments (35)

44 people like this
Posted by Nancy the real Nancy
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2020 at 7:15 pm

Just let them finish the garage for gods sake!
What, do you want it to turn into the 10 YEAR bike bridge project over the 101?!?


34 people like this
Posted by Birds
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 27, 2020 at 8:10 pm

There is another aspect of all this. Some of the construction is occurring in residential neighborhoods. Listening to various machines running, people hammering, etc just makes being forced to be at home, and trying to do work, that much more difficult.


27 people like this
Posted by Sandrine
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2020 at 9:12 am

They are 2 constructions happening next to my home on Waverley street. It is just for individual housing. Workers are working all day and I do not see any social distances. That does not make any sense. This is not a priority to build someone's house! What are they still allow to work on these projects?


26 people like this
Posted by HB
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2020 at 10:52 am

It is a priority to do some residential construction — I have friends who have a demolished kitchen and bathroom as part of a remodel project they started in January, right now they are living with their 4 kids in hotels and Airbnbs., They meant to move out for 3 weeks and now they are planning to move back to their unfinished house despite having no kitchen and one working bathroom. They can’t be expected to live in hotels and airbnbs indefinitely, or in a home that is uninhabitable.

With residential construction in most cases there are people like this who are renting elsewhere waiting to move into the house they own, or trying to live in a home that is technically uninhabitable due to lack of kitchen or bathroom families so there is a big financial impact to stopping residential construction.

Maybe they could stop all construction and then just allow hardship exceptions for individuals. But they are not allowing new construction to begin and it also seems a reasonable choice to allow existing projects to continue for residences, not to mention that it allows construction workers to continue to earn income.

Not a perfect system but it seems reasonable to me.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2020 at 1:02 pm

Posted by Sandrine, a resident of Midtown

>> Workers are working all day and I do not see any social distances.

It seems to me that a little training could solve this. Workers are already wearing gloves and hardhats, and, for certain tasks, masks. They are outside, usually working some distance from each other. Very often, far enough away to have to shout. I would think that with a little training/explanation, they could be careful about not rubbing shoulders when reading plans, etc. Under what circumstances, on what tasks, are they increasing the likelihood of virus transmission?


12 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 28, 2020 at 1:11 pm

The annoying thing about this project is that it sometimes goes until 9pm And when you've been stuck at home all stay with 3 wild kids and you just need a break and then you still here construction from this project at 9pm it's super frustrating. Even on the weekends. Also I see the workers in the morning walking in packs not abiding by social distancing.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Stop asking can they do that? Why does the weekly support shutting down everything? You are sowing your own demise with the loss of advertising revenue. Instead ask where is the legality of this shelter in place order? As I wrote in another thread we have gone down a very dangerous slippery slope with regard to government authoritarianism bordering on dictatorship and the weekly does nothing but fan those fires.

Trump considers quarantining NYC as New Jersey police hunt New Yorkers traveling to New Jersey. Web Link

Cuomo threatens to sue New Jersey calling their hunting “illegal” and un-American. Finally, I do hope someone takes legal action. This whole shelter in place is totally un-American and illegal


26 people like this
Posted by @(so-called) Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 28, 2020 at 4:52 pm

"This whole shelter in place is totally un-American and illegal"

1) Are you *that* desperate to infect us all?
2) You do NOT have to put our lives at risk because of your selfishness.
3) Go. Away. Now.


10 people like this
Posted by Oliver Stephens
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2020 at 4:55 pm

>> Workers are working all day and I do not see any social distances.

I still see people on the Stanford campus playing aggressive soccer, bumping into each other, clearly flaunting the rules.

Do we have a social distancing law in effect, or do we not? If we do, can I call the police on those people?


30 people like this
Posted by mad James
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2020 at 6:41 pm

i have been seeing Construction near my house and they have been fairly quiet working on this house! I know the shelter in place isnt easy its frustrating for me too! But for goodness sakes let them do their jobs and make money to help support their families in this hard time! No need to call 911 about couple guys who probably arent even near you in the first place!!!


9 people like this
Posted by Steven A.
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2020 at 3:15 am

Also in Mountain View the large, non-essential construction projects continue with many workers mingling together. It puts them and the rest of the community at risk. It is infuriating when the rest of us are experiencing great inconvenience and they act like the rules don't apply.


5 people like this
Posted by Oh Well....
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Seems curious that a lowly appointed City Project Manager and city inspectors are able to determine if a construction project is deemed "necessary and continue on. Guess they have a medical degree or are familiar with epidemic outbreak research. Don't know where the city manager stands as no response from his office. Guess it all comes down to money as Swinerton Construction probably told city staff and council delays cost money. Kinda makes a joke out of the "Stay at Home" policy. Hope the City Council, City Manager, City Project Manager, and city inspectors can respond if even one person is medically infected by their decision to ignore both federal and state mandated health and safety quarantines.


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Posted by Oliver Stephens, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> I still see people on the Stanford campus playing aggressive soccer, bumping into each other,

Did you walk nearby (25 feet, say) and shout at them that their behavior is risking disease transmission?

>> Do we have a social distancing law in effect, or do we not? If we do, can I call the police on those people?

Alternatively, you could call Stanford security, and, Stanford being private/private land, they can stop the behavior on the spot and warn the participants that they are violating Stanford policies that are already in place. Stanford security can force them to leave or get arrested for trespassing. But, chances are, the participants are clueless, and, what they need most is a good explanation that they can understand. Since they were/are athletes, someone could remind them that several NBA stars have become ill, and, the NBA isn't playing, even in empty arenas.


5 people like this
Posted by EastBayGrease
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2020 at 1:21 pm

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by on campus
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 29, 2020 at 1:35 pm

I live on campus. This morning walking the dog I saw an uptick of police on foot. Stanford is very serious about maintaining county orders and social distancing. If anyone sees violations on campus they should call the Stanford police immediately.

Students in violation face extreme consequences, as they should. There are almost no undergraduates left and the only ones that remain are either from a country to which they cannot return or literally have no where to go (e.g. aged out of foster care).


Thank you and I hope everyone stays safe.




15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2020 at 3:45 pm

If you are afraid of getting infected then you stay home! Do not stop me from working to support my family, put food on my table, and put a roof over my head. You have no right. How dare you take away my livelihood.


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown

>> If you are afraid of getting infected then you stay home!

I have no way of knowing if you are serious or not.

At the moment, I am at home. But, that is not sufficient. For my protection -- and, for the protection of all -- the behavior of everyone has to change, including you. And, yes, if you are endangering everyone, then, the government has a duty to make you stop.

>> Do not stop me from working to support my family, put food on my table, and put a roof over my head. You have no right. How dare you take away my livelihood.

If your livelihood depends on your driving 100 mph down Middlefield, then, yes, it needs to be "taken away". If your livelihood endangers all of us -- then, it has to stop. It is simple. You have no right to endanger others.


13 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2020 at 5:52 pm

totally support construction continuing on commercial and residential, need to keep as many employed as we can while dealing with the health crisis or else our economy implodes (if it hasn't already).

[Portion removed] let's start thinking about how we can smartly keep people (the most needy) at work through this crisis while keeping the most are risk safe and isolated

Here's a number for you, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week




9 people like this
Posted by @YP
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2020 at 6:42 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 29, 2020 at 6:59 pm

If we allow construction of any type, the virus will spread and more people will die. In the alternate universe [portion removed], the economy is more important than human lives, but this is inconsequential to the majority [portion removed.] If restaurants, offices and schools are shut down, so should be ALL construction sites, for as long as it takes.


12 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2020 at 7:13 pm

i find it interesting looking at multiple articles on the PAW, many are decrying that they are shutting down open spaces because they provide a "relief for physical and mental health", but those same people want to shut down the jobs of those more needy that also are outside and obviously need more than "mental' health.

It's called hypocrisy .......


5 people like this
Posted by C Walters
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 29, 2020 at 7:24 pm

As resident goes back to business as ususal…

"Beginning this week, some hospitals are expected to reach their maximum capacity, case counts will rise exponentially, and the number of available ventilators and beds in ICUs will plummet. Models and projections show the month of April will be a public health catastrophe unlike anything in modern memory.
Tens of thousands of Americans are likely to die from the coronavirus in the coming weeks, a consequence of American leaders failing to heed the lessons learned in other countries about the value and success of taking drastic steps."

"Trump and other officials who compared the coronavirus to the flu are set to the see fatalities from the coronavirus far exceed the seasonal illness's death toll.
An analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that between 38,000 and 162,000 Americans will die of the coronavirus in the next four months alone. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday the death toll could come close to 200,000 in the space of a few months. A recent model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a worst-case scenario in which as many as 1.7 million Americans would die."


from: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by C Walters
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 29, 2020 at 7:28 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by LetThemWork
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 30, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Insofar as the work on the garage and bike bridge etc are concerned, I am willing to assume the good-faith of the construction company to make the necessary changes (safety, distancing, etc) for their workforce to continue these projects. They have every incentive to keep their workers from becoming ill, as do the workers so that they may continue earning a paycheck! Let inspectors verify the conditions. There are many good reasons that such activities should be allowed to continue if they can do so safely.

Rather than be suspicious of everyone and assume avarice and 'me first' attitudes ("them"), I'd rather first assume that people are responsible and have good intentions ("us").


7 people like this
Posted by Midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Re residential (and probably non-residential) construction, they're legally obligated to stop all work at 6pm. I have called the police to report violations on the residential construction site next door and they came out right away and addressed the problem. This was pre-virus so I don't know if they're (understandably) otherwise engaged, but that's the law.


6 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Thank you, Midtown Resident. I did not call the police but I personally walked over when work was going on with a remodel next door. It was summer, with long days, and work was continuing after 6:00. I told them I was not going to listen to whining saws in the evening after my long commute. They complied.


4 people like this
Posted by Optimistic
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 30, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Many Palo Alto residents who, like construction workers, need to make a living, cannot do our jobs from home (machinists, laboratory workers, mechanics, cooks, pilots, etc., etc.). Nothing - and I mean nothing - gives anyone special privileges when we, as a community are under "shelter in place" orders.

I am a medical doctor following the pandemic closely. We need to be responsible to each other and not get selfish.

Seeing non-essential residential construction (near us there are many) and - even worse - gardening services - being done at full speed is infuriating when many good, hard-working citizens are stuck at home, not working, but doing the right thing.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2020 at 2:52 pm

OTHO, some of these projects--garage, bridge, animal shelter--will have less of an impact on traffic and businesses while most are closed and people are working at home.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2020 at 3:17 pm

Posted by Optimistic, a resident of Green Acres

>> I am a medical doctor following the pandemic closely. We need to be responsible to each other and not get selfish.

>> Seeing non-essential residential construction (near us there are many) and - even worse - gardening services - being done at full speed is infuriating when many good, hard-working citizens are stuck at home, not working, but doing the right thing.

Residential construction was specifically excluded. Did that change? In any case, I would certainly agree that most gardening services are non-essential. But, they are often solitary, or at least not done in proximity to the other gardeners. So, please explain why it is "the right thing" to not work outdoors away from anybody?


12 people like this
Posted by Book Em
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Mar 30, 2020 at 3:26 pm

The garage in itself is not critical.

However, the garage must be completed before work can start on the new Police Station that is critical.

The police station will cover the parking lot across the street.

Thus, this is considered an enabling project for the Police Station.


3 people like this
Posted by Optimistic
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:30 am

Dear Anon,
To your request: "So, please explain why it is "the right thing" to not work outdoors away from anybody?"

I will give an example based on what I am seeing daily in my neighborhood. Gardeners or construction workers - take your pick - generally do not work alone. Sure, they are outside, but typically do not wear masks, share tools and pass objects to each other all day. I usually see groups riding together to job sites. So... likely many have families. We are seeing about a 10% prevalence in community testing, so let's go with a 10% chance of anyone being infectious. So a significant number of such workers will infect each other and bring Covid-19 home to their families. As you can imagine, if someone gets really ill (for example the grandmother helping with the kids) and goes to Stanford ICU, that is an ICU bed and maybe scarce ventilator needlessly occupied. That could be prevented by the workers, like the rest those heeding "shelter in place" not mixing with others.

Does that help?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2020 at 1:46 pm

Answering my own question above: the new county-wide order just issued restricts "housing" construction further to safety/maintenance, and:

"Affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including multi-unit or mixed-use developments containing at least 10% income-restricted units;"

So, building high-end single-family construction must (gracefully) cease.

Likewise, gardening/landscaping commercial services for appearance only. Some is permitted:

"habitability, sanitation, operation of businesses or residences, or the safety of residents, employees, or the public (such as fire safety or tree trimming to prevent a dangerous condition), and not for cosmetic or other purposes (such as upkeep)"


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Postscript: San Mateo County seems to be operating under the previous concept that (most) housing construction is good.

[...] "individuals may leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to" [...] "construction of housing (in particular affordable housing or housing for individuals experiencing homelessness)"

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2020 at 8:56 am

Sorry for the follow-up to the follow-up. San Mateo County issued a new order late last night. It now is consistent with the other counties:

Web Link

Specifically, high-end construction no longer allowed, but, continued construction of low-income housing is allowed. Maybe this will jump-start some of the low-income projects that have been lagging. I really hope that companies that continue construction will train and monitor their employees regarding social distancing.


6 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2020 at 10:19 am

Just went for my morning walk. Sprayed the streetside newspaper kiosk handle with alcohol before using it to check inside. On my way back i noticed a child and parent. The child was having fun opening and closing the kiosk, while father fondly looked on. Most like not going to be an infection risk, but really?


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