CTRA Observer Reports for February

The College Terrace Residents Association has a group of board members known as “observers” who monitor relevant public meetings and news in their assigned area and then report back to the entire board on pertinent local actions and issues of interest to College Terrace. This month, we have updates from two of our observers.

California Avenue Business District

Update on Khoury’s Market and Fines

Twenty-two residents wrote to the city council regarding Khoury’s Market including Melanie Grondel, Michael Frank, Kim Lemmer, Pria Graves, Malcolm Slaney, Eileen Stolee, and several other dedicated citizens.

Citizens spoke to the Palo Alto City Council’s closed session on February 10, 2020 on the legal challenges to the fines. Melanie Grondel, Derek Gurney and Fred Balin were strong speakers concerning this issue. Watch the video.

Later, during oral communications, landlord Jason Oberman distributed, and spoke to, a letter he submitted to the council. Watch the video and read the letter.

I wrote to the Palo Alto City Council and city staff on February 17, 2020 regarding inaccuracies in his letter. For example, Oberman had told the College Terrace Residents’ Association on November 14, 2018 that he was going to provide signage amongst other improvements. He never did. He also stated that all work would be completed in a few months. In other words all work would be completed by the end of March 2019.

Residents also spoke prior to the council’s vote on, and approval of, revised wording to the municipal fee schedule, so that the full amount of $2000 a day could be assessed. Watch the video.

Since the council meeting there has been activity at the site. On Oxford Avenue, exterior painting appears to have been completed, the netting has been removed, and most of the scaffolding dismantled. (The Khourys vacate the space and NOW the landlord is in a hurry to finish the exterior work!)

Work its underway on the facade of the El Camino Real where shrouding and scaffolding remain.

Oberman has stated that he has engaged Cushman and Wakefield to market the lease and is “fully committed to find the right tenant or tenants for the space to fit the needs of the local residents.”

As Susan Cole stated February 19, 2020 on NextDoor, “The developer should not be allowed to use the problems he created as a rationale for not providing this function,”  i.e., a grocery store.

Now it is up to the City of Palo Alto to show the community that enforcement of the code will be implemented per the decision that the Council took on February 10, 2020.

–Ann Lafargue Balin


Stanford Development

Supervisor Simitian held a gathering of GUP “regulars” for a debriefing in late January. The big question is “now where”? They still have 175K square feet of development allowed under the 2000 GUP which should last them a couple years at the current rate.  They can demolish/replace as well.  However, once that GUP is used up and expired, they cannot do any development until a new GUP is in place.  The County requires that all development must be done pursuant to a GUP. 

The conjecture is that Stanford will wait until either there is a recession (so that additional employment opportunities are viewed more favorably) or until Simitian is termed out at the end of 2024. 

Supervisor Simitian is pleased that the phrase “Full Mitigation” is out of the box and part of common vocabulary.  This should make it easier to insist on that in the future.  Simitian reiterated that he was surprised at the withdrawal.  They could have asked for a continuance instead of bailing.  As I mentioned in November, he and Supervisor Chavez had drafted additional proposed conditions of approval just days before Stanford pulled the plug. 

Supervisor Simitian acknowledges that the school funding issue should be considered separately, regardless of the GUP process although I gather that working with the school district has not been easy.  In addition, he and Supervisor Chavez are attempting to keep open the lines of cross-county-line communication that emerged during the GUP, working with leaders in Menlo Park, Redwood City, East Palo Alto, etc. 

In a second bombshell, Stanford submitted a California Public Records Act Request on 12/13/2019. The Act allows only 10 calendar days to respond which was really rough considering that there are two weekends during the 10-day period and it was coming close to Christmas.  Clearly this was intended to make things difficult for the County.

The University requested:

  • Documents relating to Consultants
  • Documents relating to County’s communications to the public

All documents released by the County in response to this request are available on the web – 875 pages so far! – here: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/dpd/Programs/Stanford/Pages/CPRA.aspx

Following this request, Supervisors Ellenberg and Wasserman attempted to delay the December renewal of the contract with M-Group, a consultant firm which is still doing some work related to Stanford.  The problem with such a delay is that negotiation of a new contract would have become necessary, complicating things.  Fortunately the Board moved to press ahead with the renewal.

Meanwhile, Supervisors Simitian and Chavez are moving ahead with next steps on the Stanford Community Plan (part of the County’s General Plan) and the 1985 Land Use Agreement. This update had been bundled with the GUP process, which complicated everything. So taking advantage of this hiatus, the Supervisors decided that it is actually more appropriate at this point for the County to move ahead with the updates as a separate item.  The proposed update includes extension of the Academic Growth Boundary for 99 years plus other community related items that were raised during the public hearings: graduate student housing affordability, and a Municipal Services Study, including childcare needs of faculty, staff, and students as well as provision of and funding for other municipal services.  The Board voted on February 11 to refer this to staff for action. Stanford’s only request in this matter was that the County Administration “engage early and constructively with the university” as they study possible amendments.  Who knows what that means?

The San Juan Residential District Historic Survey & Development Standards Study is moving ahead.  This is the effort to evaluate the historic character of the neighborhood and determine what development standards might be needed to preserve that character.  An initial Community Outreach Meeting is scheduled for February 27th.  Following that, an 8-member Community Stakeholder Group will be established to advise the County during the project.  I have submitted myself as the possible CRG representative member.

Going forward, I finally have a second meeting scheduled with Martin Shell for the 3rd of March.  In addition, Megan Swezy Fogarty, formerly part of Simitian’s staff, will be taking on an outreach role for Stanford next month.  I’ve worked with her in the past and I hope that this will be a good thing for us.  

Finally, the first 2020 CRG meeting is scheduled for March 12th

College Terrace Housing Acquisitions & Demolitions

Construction continues unabated throughout the neighborhood, both by Stanford and others. 

Stanford Faculty/Staff housing listings online:

  • 1015 Stanford is still listed, despite having been part of a sale lottery in December
  • 2070 Columbia shows as “In Escrow”
  • 2040 Columbia and 2345 Princeton are no longer shown on the list

–Pria Graves

Grocery Store Penalties at City Council on Monday

Greetings to neighbors and others who supported Khoury’s Market and want to voice your concerns either in writing or in person to the City Council for its Monday, February 10th meeting.

Two items on Monday’s agenda are related to the market and the monetary penalties incurred due to the failure of the owners (past and present) of College Terrace Centre to provide for a grocery store as agreed to in a restrictive covenant of 2014. The items are numbers 3 and 9 on the City Council’s meeting agenda – read the agenda here.

Starting with number 9, because this is more easily grasped, is a proposed amendment to the City’s administrative penalty schedule to correct a long overdue oversight and increase the penalties to the intended amount beginning at $2,000 per day.  Please write the City Council that you are in favor of these needed changes at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org.

Item number 3, which will be heard earlier in a closed session, relates to existing litigation brought by the property owners against the City of Palo Alto questioning the penalties, including whether the city has the right to enact any penalties at all. While the City argues the penalties are legal, the City has not stated whether it intends to try and recoup the lost revenue due to the oversight and delay in implementing the fines in the amount of $250,000.

Pressing for this money would not only increase pressure on the owners to provide a market but also add to the funds for which these fines are earmarked, i.e., community benefits. If you agree the City should pursue this lost revenue, either come to the City Council meeting and speak at 6:15pm or email the City Council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org.

–Ann Balin

CTRA Observer Reports for January

The College Terrace Residents Association has a group of board members known as “observers” who monitor relevant public meetings and news in their assigned area and then report back to the entire board on pertinent local actions and issues of interest to College Terrace.

California Avenue Business District

Much of the discussion at this month’s CTRA board meeting centered around Khoury’s Market and what neighbors could do to preserve a grocery store at College Terrace Centre. The City is currently scheduled to discuss the issues surrounding the market and the enforcement of fines (if the market does close) at its Monday, February 10 meeting. All interested residents are encouraged to attend that meeting and advocate for the enforcement of the fines and preservation of the public benefit promised as part of the College Terrace Centre development.

City of Palo Alto

At its Monday, January 13 meeting, the City Council approved a program that allows local churches designate up to four spaces on their lots for car campers. At this point, it’s unclear whether either of the churches in our neighborhood will take advantage of it. This is a pilot program that will last for 18 months and the City encourages residents to give feedback as the program gets underway.

We also want to remind people that the City of Palo Alto has multiple email newsletters that residents can subscribe to in order to stay informed. There’s the monthly “Our Palo Alto” newsletter, the weekly “All Things Palo Alto” newsletter, as well as emails devoted to news and annoucements, Caltrain electrification and grade separation, and general transportation. You can subscribe to the newsletters on the City website.

– Margaret Heath


General Development

Nothing much to report at this time, but Supervisor Simitian is holding a gathering of GUP “regulars” for a debriefing on January 30th and the first Stanford Community Resource Group (CRG) meeting of 2020 is scheduled for March 12th.

College Terrace Housing Acquisitions & Demolitions

I noted in the Daily Post that Stanford purchased 2090 Columbia Street for $2,400,000 in November.  

Construction continues unabated throughout the neighborhood, both by Stanford and others. 

Stanford faculty & staff housing listings on the web:

  • 1015 Stanford is still listed, despite having been part of a lottery sale in December
  • 2145 Princeton still shows as “Pending”
  • 2040 and 2070 Columbia show as “In Escrow”
  • 610 California (Stanford rental) had a permit for replacement of a tankless water heater

– Pria Graves