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What's eating College Terrace? Survey points to resident dissatisfaction

Original post made on Jan 25, 2023

With its walkable streets and proximity to Stanford, College Terrace doesn't seem like the grumpiest neighborhood in Palo Alto. But a new survey has some council members wondering what's amiss.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 9:43 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2023 at 10:43 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I'm not a College Terrace resident but color me grump, too, about the flawed survey. For years -- probably 5 years -- it's impossible for many to take the survey since there is STILL no mechanism for resetting your password.

Repeated emails to the survey provider asking for help go unanswered as do emails to City staff.

Since the city's still wondering why response rates are so low and is about to spend money to get people "more involved" in their community, they might look to the obvious and ongoing failures before hiring more consultants.

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 25, 2023 at 12:18 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Surveys are ridiculous

Posted by Smrty
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2023 at 12:54 pm

Smrty is a registered user.

While I have the opportunity to do so, I wonder if someone can explain to me why it is ok for Stanford to purchase homes in college terrace (and then tear them down, thereby eliminating the small cottages) and then restrict the 'buyers' of the newly rebuilt, very expensive homes to only those affiliated with Stanford. Why is that different than if I were to sell my home and chose to restrict buyers to only those who are public employees or some other exclusive group. I assume it would be illegal for me to do so.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2023 at 2:24 pm

ALB is a registered user.

Thank you Smrty for bringing up Stanford real estate and land management’s plan to gobble up Palo Alto homes in College Terrace. They are also buying homes in Evergreen neighborhood.

Stanford refused to maintain the easement from California Avenue in the upper terrace to Page Mill Road when developing University Terrace formerly called the Mayfield project. The Peter Coutts faculty housing allows for faculty to get to Stanford Avenue and to Page Mill Road.

College Terrace is a cut through neighborhood with streets including Columbia, Hanover and Princeton as some of the most pressured re: traffic.

College Terrace is surrounded on three sides by Stanford. When University Terrace was being planned TCE was found in the soil. College Terrace Residents’ Association (CTRA) board members with the superfund expert and former mayor of Mountain View Lenny Siegal presented to the CC that Stanford be required to install mitigating technology to prevent TCE vapors from entering newly constructed homes for junior faculty in the University Terrace project. Stanford had several rows of land use personnel in the chambers. When asked why Stanford did not want to do that they replied cost was not the issue. Stanford did not want to inform the homeowners as it could unduly worry these junior faculty. Mayor Pat Burt and the council voted to REQUIRE Stanford to include the mitigating technology. Why wouldn’t Stanford step up and do the right thing instead of having the city council dictate the logical and moral obligation to protect these homeowners?

The parking permit program was necessary as Stanford folks parked in College Terrace because the fees for on campus parking were steep. We were jammed with Stanford cars in College Terrace. This is an excellent example of
why neighbors work together to ensure
that our quality of life is not harmed by
this corporate entity called Stanford.

Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 25, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

If these results include Evergreen Park, I can tell you a bit of why EP residents might not be too happy. For years, the City protected other neighborhoods from traffic and parking incursions by employees of nearby businesses -- but not Evergreen Park. We were only given a measure of protection when the pandemic resulted in fewer employees coming to the Cal Ave district.

When Cal Ave was closed to traffic, the City Manager REFUSED to meet with neighborhood representatives to talke with us about plans for traffic mitigation, etc. After well over a year -- and close to two years -- of the street being closed, there still is no signage telling people where parking is in the area. There is still no plan to make the street presentable. Compare Cal Ave appearance with that of Downtown, and you will see what I mean. Cal Ave is the ugly step-sister. The City persists in calling Cal Ave the 'second downtown' or one of our 'two downstown.' It is not a downtown by any stretch of the imagination. It used to be a vibrant neighborhood shopping area. The City turned it into a high-priced restaurant and service street for highly paid tech workers -- all over the objections of the neighbors. The City has never cared what the neighbors think. Requests for a speed bump along Park Blvd by Peers Park have been brushed aside in favor of making it a high speed bike street. So, why should we be particularly happy? Wealthier neighborhoods in the north receive much more resources and favorable attention.

Posted by Lightning Man
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2023 at 4:58 pm

Lightning Man is a registered user.

I am concerned that College Terrace residents have been unfairly characterized as opinionated or even grumpy by a survey that polled only 40 residents of area 5, which includes College Terrace, Evergreen Park and Southgate. First of all, that is a very small percentage of the total amount of residents. There are close to 1,800 residents in College Terrace alone! Secondly, This article is combining area 5 neighborhoods but generalizing about one neighborhood, College Terrace. Thirdly, it is comparing apples with oranges when comparing 40 area 5 responses with 106 area 6 responses. College Terrace is a neighborhood with a lot of diversity and living arrangements with a much higher percentage of shorter term renters vs. long term homeowners. I am not afraid to speculate that the homeowner with stable housing costs will be a lot more satisfied with living in Palo Alto than renters who face continuing increases in rent, rentals being sold, and the affordability struggles to live in this expensive community. It has been sad to lose so many College Terrace neighborhood renters who have had to leave to find a home they can afford elsewhere even though they loved College Terrace. Many of these neighbors are families with young children. They DO want to raise their children here in College Terrace but can't find stable rentals or family homes to buy. I have lived in College Terrace for 42 years and I can't remember a resident telling me they didn't like their neighborhood, but many have had to move away. This is also a community with connections to Stanford, its students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Many of these folks have been here for a relatively short period of time. I think there are many reasons to challenge that College Terrace residents are unhappy living in College Terrace, if that is the conclusion of the survey. It may be that CT has more residents who feel the financial strain of living in Palo Alto than residents of Crescent Park or Professorville.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2023 at 8:27 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

the problem is Stanford. They buying up many College Terrace houses and then doing ugly conversions which is changing the entire neighborhood...and decreasing PA's tax base.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2023 at 8:34 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

My problem is ALSO the continuing refusal to engage with residents and neighbors.

For example, is the City Council retreat this weekend open to the public? Some think it it yet we've heard nothing -0- nada, zip, bupkis -- from the city that's wring its hands and clutching its pearls at the low response rate to the surveys, lack of cxommunity involvement WHILE REFUSING to meet with residents, neighborhood groups, etc.

We need answers sooner rather than later.

1) Why spend money on useless and inaccurate surveys?
2) Why keep refusing to meet with and answer questions from the taxpayers?
3) Where and when is the City Council Retreat>
4) What's the CC Retreat schedule?
5) Is the CC Retreat open to the public?
6) Where's the notifications and if there aren't any, why NOT?

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2023 at 9:25 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Few cities have the gall to think so highly of themselves that they put out surveys only accessible to residents they are SURE will give them high marks, only to act shocked that all is not well in the quality of life department of their chosen target population.

Nobody surveyed me, but if I were allowed to respond I would suggest this:

LESS overpaid honchos who do nothing to improve the quality of life of the city they take their pay from;

LESS stupid surveys;


Make the City accessible to everyone, stop letting Stanford Land rule the roost, allow transparency in ALL city meetings (meaning NO MORE SECRET MEETINGS), and restore Cal Ave to an actual commercial artery instead of letting it sit there like a glorified food court while businesses close their doors. It's truly disgusting looking past those orange barricades and it cannot be appetizing sitting on a plastic chair trying to get somebody's 15 year old wad of gum off your shoe while eating something that you paid way too much for.

And for dog's sake ... HELP THE HOMELESS. Stop blaming. You could house 50 people on the City Manager's salary alone. Think how many could be housed if we could just wipe the slate clean and pay the City do-nothing's what they are actually worth. Let's put our money to GOOD USE.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2023 at 10:50 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

For those mentioning the council retreat, or wanting more interaction with the city council, keep in mind that California's Brown Act essentially makes it illegal for a city council to meet with residents and discuss issues that residents bring up--any topics of conversation regarding public policy involving a majority of council members must be publicized at least several days in advance; this applies to ANY communication between council members, including e-mail. This is why council members may have individual "office hours" to listen to residents' concerns, but the city never has any "Town Hall" meetings where the entire council listens to and discusses residents' concerns: such a meeting is illegal in California for all public councils and boards, unless all topics of conversation are publicized in advance. Members of the public are allowed to address the council on any subject during Oral Communications at council meetings, but the council is, with a few exceptions, not legally allowed to respond.

In other words, the Brown Act, perhaps unintentionally, makes it illegal for members of the public to have conversations with public councils and boards unless they are set up well in advance, and generally, only members of the public associated with other government agencies, prominent social organizations, or prominent businesses, are granted this privilege.

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 26, 2023 at 12:41 am

Mondoman is a registered user.

"Kim Daane, survey research associate with Polco, said that despite the lower response rate, the firm has 95% confidence in survey results, with a 5% margin of error"

A silly statement like this would get laughed out of even a high school level stat class. CM Burt had the right idea to compare survey results with objective data to see if they match. We already know that answer -- they don't. The detailed description of the survey mentions for example that the fraction of respondents indicating they were age 55+ was double that listed in Palo Alto's demographic information.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2023 at 8:30 am

Annette is a registered user.

"A new survey, however, has city leaders wondering whether everything in College Terrace is really copacetic. "

Is everything copacetic anywhere these days? What a silly question to even ask. Rather than conclude that residents in a particular neighborhood might have a problem, the City should be thinking hard about why a neighborhood that has a high level of civic engagement is registering concern about the status of various issues in Palo Alto. I have lived in College Terrace since the early 1980s and the sad fact of the matter is this: as good as Palo Alto is, there's been a downward trend in recent years, leaving plenty of room for improvement. I think it's a good thing that residents care enough to be civically engaged and to speak up when they see things heading south.

About surveys: they should all include an opportunity to comment at the end. Too many surveys force answers that lead to foregone conclusions.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2023 at 9:19 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I totally agree with Annette re that being a silly question. High time they started wondering about College Terrace and every other neighborhood in the city.

One only has to see Next Door this morning with more than 250 shocked Palo Alto residents from ALL neighborhoods wondering why their utility bills are so high. Many are only hearing about the Utility Transfer tax now.

One only has to read the Crescent Park Neighborhood Assn mailing list for the last month to see that they're not ecstatic with the city's response to the floods, the years they're STILL going to have to wait for something to be done and now the plans to add tons of "traffic calming" paving.

Our "leaders" should need a new survey to start wondering. They need to start LISTENING and responding to questions.

So I repeat mine about this weekend's CC retreat.


Posted by Chris
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 26, 2023 at 9:43 am

Chris is a registered user.

You cut down all the trees on Cal Ave, then you wonder why people don't like the community as much. Quit making excuses and being offended by the facts- people like the other neighborhoods in Palo Alto better right now. Try cutting down the trees on university and see how people feel about downtown

Posted by Ed Lauing
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2023 at 11:54 am

Ed Lauing is a registered user.

Saturday's City Council Retreat at Mitchell Park Library (El Palo Alto room) is the #1 item listed on the city's website under City Hall. It is a public meeting.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2023 at 12:39 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

What Jeremy Erman wrote about the Brown Act above is absolutely an incorrect interpretation.

Council members may talk with any number of their constituents about issues. They may not talk about what those constituents may have discussed with other Council Members.

The Brown Act legally prevents electeds and appointed commissioners from talking with a majority of their colleagues about issues that have not yet been decided by vote. The purpose of this is to prevent them from organizing a majority vote on a specific position OUTSIDE of a public meeting. The Brown act requires participation of the public. This is a good thing, and it is why you rarely see Council Members posting on social media on active issues. They have no way of knowing who is on Nextdoor or PA Online. They cannot risk violating the Brown Act by accidentally reaching and persuading a majority of their voting colleagues in these venues.

Here is a link to a summary of the Brown Act from the League of Women Voters web site. Web Link

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2023 at 1:02 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Ed Lauing, thanks for bothering to respond but one must ask where our "city leaders" are and why their "outreach" is so pathetic at a time when they're allegedly decrying the lack of public involvement.

Several of us were discussing prior retreats where there was standing room only and leaders were forced to recognize citizens' concerns about airplane noise, Saving The Varsity Theater, etc. etc.and noting the difference between then and now!

Does city really expect us to check its web site daily for possible items of interest? Of course not!

It's obvious from the lack of outreach that the city doesn't consider our participation at the retreat a priority.

Once again: Add an Ask The City Manager session to each City Council meeting.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2023 at 6:15 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Prior to College Terrace getting a parking permit program, it is my understanding that Stanford had an incentive program that paid people to not drive to the campus and use campus parking. It was not unusual to see people park in College Terrace and then walk/bike/skate/scooter to their campus destination. I assume those who took the incentive were happy for the money and that Stanford was glad to be able to report stats that looked good for its much-touted TDM program. Never mind that some of that data was bogus. Palo Alto might be just another peninsula city if it was not proximate to Stanford, but over the years Stanford has become a complicated and often bullyish neighbor.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2023 at 7:21 pm

eileen is a registered user.

"Kim Daane, the survey research associate with Polco, said that despite the lower response rate, the firm has 95% confidence in survey results, with a 5% margin of error"

My question is why did Palo Alto Online think this was a story worth writing?
It only shows the Palo Alto citizens how tax dollars are spent on useless data. The whole survey is a total embarrassment!

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2023 at 7:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Excellent points. One could also ask why it dominated this week's City Council meeting.

It's We=Care Theater of the Absurd virtue-signalling. Just like the non-publicized, unreported City Council retreat.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2023 at 11:36 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

@Consider Your Options, I think you misunderstood what I said about the Brown Act. Yes, of course an individual council member can talk to multiple constituents about their concerns; the problem is that an individual constituent--or group of constituents--can't discuss issues with multiple council members unless the issues have been publicly agendized in advance, but at such public meetings, members of the public are almost never given the opportunity to have a back and forth conversation with multiple council members

For example, during the pandemic I e-mailed a group of council members with concerns about decisions the City had recently made: one council member e-mailed me some of his thoughts, but also asked to be removed from any further responses, because he was afraid that if he and other council members saw what each other was saying, this would be a Brown Act violation. I also asked a School Board member during the pandemic why the Board didn't have a Town Hall meeting to discuss issues that the public was clearly concerned about, and the board member replied that while she sometimes individually held Town Halls with constituents, it was illegal for the entire Board to hold a Town Hall.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2023 at 4:48 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Not only did Stanford financially reward employees to park in nearby neighborhoods, parking in College Terrace was just steps away from the circular Stanford campus shuttle arriving every ten minutes or so to whisk their workers into the central campus, including shuttle connections to the hospital and shopping center.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2023 at 10:01 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@mjh, in the gool ol' days I took the train and walked from the station to the mall to earn my minimum wage paycheck. Shuttles are for lazy people! ps there are no fees for parking at stanford mall -- *YET*. if they could figure out how to do it, they would. unless, are you saying mall employees have to pay to park at the mall? if so i am completely out of touch.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:52 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Wrong again, Jeremy. They can talk to any number of constituents. WE cannot tell them what their colleagues have said to us. We can share our own thoughts with any every member of Council if we want to do that.

Read the Brown Act. Its purpose is to prevent backroom dealing of Council Members with each other, not to prevent them from talking with members of the public.

Posted by QuestionableStats
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2023 at 7:20 am

QuestionableStats is a registered user.

Agree with all the commenters with regard to the statistical results. We can't know if there is a significant difference between the responses of the neighborhoods without further information. Yes, for this sample, we can see differences in the means, but are those differences statistically significant? Without that information, it's difficult to determine if the differences between the Areas are anything more than sampling error. And, shouldn't the discrepancies in the demographics of the sample versus the population have been delineated? In statistical terms, the results from Area 5 are not truly "outliers", but may be better identified as more "extreme" than other Areas. It's important to understand these things to know how generalizable these results are and, thus, how much time, energy, and effort to spend on discussing and addressing any significant discrepancies. Perhaps this info was available to our city council members but without it, this article doesn't really have any legs to stand on. Setting that aside, there will always be ways our city can do better by its citizens.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 1, 2023 at 11:54 am

Deborah is a registered user.

It does not escape my notice that with the exception of Jeremy Erman, Annette and Ed Lauing, none of the commenters have provided their names. My feeling is anonymous posts should not be allowed. Personally, I ignore all anonymous posts.

That said, I canvassed four neighborhoods in last election. One of them was College Terrace. Poorly designed survey not withstanding, College Terrace residents ARE a lot grumpier, but not uniformly. The renters in all those cute, detached cottages were almost uniformly bitter. The rest of the neighborhood seems to be polarized, mostly over increasing the housing stock in Palo Alto. This was not the case in the other three neighborhoods I canvassed.

About Stanford building housing, I don't know what the issue is here. Do you want Stanford affiliated people, who are mostly families with a lot invested in the community, or do you want foreign investors or developers who are going to build a mini-mansion showcase? I suspect that what is at the bottom of the kerfluffle over Stanford house purchases is simply human nature's resistance to change.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2023 at 4:20 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Deborah, Palo Alto is a small town within a large urban area. The small town aspect leaves one vulnerable in many ways if they make their opinions known publicly. There is also a large University here, of world renown, where I can recognize the cadence and content of some of the opinions I see here, even if they don't list their names. I don't need a list of "serial, rank and number" of everyone to be able to read their concerns. The survey in question and the article referring to it are both quite selective in their intended audience. The unexpected results are not to be dismissed, regardless who's offering them. What is your need to know based on? In some circles, it's to assign blame and punish the person who dared to state their opinion. Dissent is a fundamental anchor of our very existence in this country. It's what made us "great". And now, you want to know how to identify unnamed dissenters. Is it to give out medals?

It would be nice if the City would send out a survey about some of the really hard issues facing society that seems to be ignored by Palo Alto. Because whether or not they are acknowledged, reality happens right here every day.

So sayeth the one who is no longer allowed to comment. Because of ........ free speech ain't free when you're on the internet. Or trying to keep a job, and still be allowed to have an opinion on your own time.

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