CTRA Observer Reports for July

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 all three observers.

Stanford

GUP/ Development Agreement

The Planning Commission completed their hearings on the Conditions of Approval and forwarded their endorsement, but with the proviso that Stanford must construct about four times as much housing as they originally proposed and that 70% of it be located on campus.

County staff reviewed Stanford’s boast that they are providing community benefits worth $4.7 billion and pointed out that many of these so-called “benefits” are actually either part of the initial application or legally required mitigations! Only $166 million is a more realistic value. This includes $130 million offered to Palo Alto Schools and $30 million offered for bike projects and other improvements.

On the traffic front, the 3-hour peak period counts in addition to peak hour was a win but it was disappointing that the Commission caved in on Stanford’s insistence that nothing can be done to prevent additional reverse commute trips or to avoid exceeding the Average Daily Trips count. They recommended scrapping those requirements and reverting to the standard CEQA mitigation which is a monetary contribution to “fixing” affected intersections when the traffic level is impacted by all those new residents who simply must drive everywhere.

One interesting issue that was raised by the Commission concerned the construction workers who come from long distances to work on Stanford projects. They questioned whether these folks park in the neighborhoods (I said I hadn’t seen them in ours…) or whether they are amongst those parking along El Camino Real. According to the article in last week’s PA Weekly, there are, in fact, a number of workers doing just that. The Commissioner questioned whether such workers would benefit from a designated overnight parking area on Stanford lands so they could make the drive from home less frequently. Clearly the answer is “Yes”!

Stanford continues to claim that the County is requiring an “unbuildable” project and is pulling out all stops with propaganda everywhere (online, radio, etc.). I remain concerned as to whether the Board will be able to stand up to the barrage of folks who insist that Stanford can do no wrong. Supervisor Simitian’s term as President of the Board ends in December. I believe this is why he’s anxious to have the GUP process wrapped up by then.

Finally, the Development Agreement process is still on hold. As Deputy County Executive Sylvia Gallegos pointed out to the Planning Commission, the GUP process is a permit application and they will not negotiate away the Conditions of Approval.

There is a good summary of the Commission’s decision on Palo Alto Online.

San Juan Neighborhood

At the request of the HLUET, staff prepared a proposal for a survey and evaluation of potential new development standards and zoning amendments for the San Juan Residential District. This will include:

  1. Preparation of a Historic Survey
  2. Evaluation of Existing Neighborhood Design
  3. Consideration of new Development Standards/Zoning Amendments (to bebased on the results of the first two steps)
  4. Public outreach and hearings.

It is also intended that they will create a limited-duration advisory group to work with the county on key decision points during the process. This group will consist of representatives from key stakeholder groups including leaseholders within the district as well as Stanford staff and other. Supervisor Simitian also mentioned that in addition to this special, limited duration advisory group, it might be appropriate to create a more permanent group representing Stanford stakeholders, perhaps akin to the Community Resource Group but specifically focused on Stanford issues.

Staff wanted to delay this process until after the completion of the GUP but Supervisor Simitian pushed back and suggested that this should be started sooner. Staff agreed that this process could start this fall.

–Pria Graves

California Avenue Business District

  • Adam’s Pantry is a new business slated to open on California Avenue between Terun and Country Sun. Besides a “Coming Soon” sign, we don’t know anything about this business yet.
  • diPietro Todd salon is leaving its beautiful, mid-century modern space on Birch Street due to escalating rents. It’s unclear what will replace it.
  • Construction of the new California Avenue Parking Garage is well underway and is expected to be complete in early 2020.
  • As noted in the Weekly, construction will begin this Fall on a new three-story building to replace the existing buildings between 378 and 410 Cambridge Avenue. Most of the current tenants, including the Cambridge Barber Shop, have already left.
  • Work is underway in front of Khoury’s Market to replace the dark storefront windows with clear ones so it will be easier to see into the store from the street.

–Ann Balin

City of Palo Alto

Things are relatively quiet as the City Council is currently on its summer break. The council’s first meeting after the break will be on Monday, August 5.

The City will start rolling out changes to the downtown and neighborhood parking programs next month in an effort to make them more uniform. We don’t yet know how this will impact the College Terrace Residential Permit Program, but we will update the neighborhood once we know the full extent of the changes.

–Margaret Heath

Statewide Housing Legislation Gains Steam

While Palo Alto’s City Council grapples with ways to address the current housing crisis, legislators in Sacramento are proposing a wide range of bills aimed at spurring development, some of which restrict cities’ abilities to limit or block housing development.

Senate Bill 50 (SB-50), for example, aims to bolster housing development near major transit stops and bus routes, as well as “job-rich” areas, by exempting projects in these areas from local limits on density and parking requirements.

The Embarcadero Institute recently published an analysis of SB-50’s impacts on Palo Alto. It’s worth reviewing the potential impacts on our neighborhood, as parts of College Terrace are within a quarter mile of a “high quality bus corridor” (VTA Routes 22/522) and nearly all of Palo Alto will likely be deemed “job-rich.”

Given Governor Newsom’s aggressive goal to build 3.5 million new homes in California by 2025, it’s worth watching these bills as they progress through the Legislature. The future of Palo Alto housing may be decided in Sacramento and not City Hall.

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. These four observers cover Stanford, the City of Palo Alto, the California Avenue Business District, and the Research Park.

The observers typically deliver their reports at the CTRA’s monthly meetings but, going forward, we’re also going to publish those reports on the website so that they’re more readily accessible to the neighborhood. This month, we have updates from our Stanford and California Avenue observers.


Stanford

Things with the Stanford GUP/Development Agreement have slowed way down over the holidays. No further meetings have been announced. And there have been no updates to the development agreement process website.

Meanwhile, the Historic Resources section of the GUP Application is going to the County Historical Heritage Commission for a second study session on Thursday evening, January 17: http://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=11167

Over the past few weeks the commissioners have been touring the campus to view some of the historic and no-longer-historic buildings.

One other new development on campus: the Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing regarding a zoning amendment in the San Juan Hills area of the campus.  They plan to change the land use designation of the area from Academic Campus to Campus Residential-Low Density and to redistribute five housing units from “Campus Center” to “San Juan Hills” under the 2000 GUP. They are also applying for a ten-lot subdivision. The residents in that area generally seem to be furious about it. There’s not a lot of information about it yet but the Supervisors meeting is scheduled for January 29th.

–Pria Graves


California Avenue Business District

Public Safety Building and Parking Garage

The City of Palo Alto is constructing a new public safety building at Sherman Avenue (Park Blvd.) and a new parking garage at Sherman (Ash Street). CTRA board member, Ann Lafargue Balin, (CAL Avenue observer) attended the walk-through with city staff and neighbors on Friday, January 18th. The project will be completed in 2020. Many people asked about the tree removal aspect of these projects. The trees will likely start to be removed during the week of January 22nd and according to the urban forester will be completed prior to the seasonal nesting season.

The city notified the public of the tree removal in mid-November 2018. There were several public, community meetings and hearings at the Architectural Review Board over the past two years of the project’s planning. The city sent out 2000 postcards to nearby businesses and residents to notify them of the September community meeting. Although the trees that are targeted for removal are healthy they will be removed because they would not survive the trauma of construction. The city’s urban forester and the EIR are requiring mitigation for the removal of the trees. There will be 21 new trees planted on the parking garage parcel and thirty five new trees planted on the Public Safety Building parcel. It will take 15 years for the canopy to mature. The urban forester said that native species will be emphasized in the design. They are suitable for our climate and are drought tolerant.

When the trees were removed on California Avenue in 2009 the residents and many merchants were stunned to find the street without the Holly Oaks. The city had neglected to notify the public. Citizens invited the esteemed landscape designer, Barrie Coate, for the Getty Museum to speak on what kind of species would enhance California Avenue. Dave Muffly, now Apple’s chief landscape designer was engaged to create the design for California Avenue. We now have a variety of species that make Palo Alto’s second downtown attractive. 

The scale of the parking garage is six hundred and thirty six parking places. The city staff had recommended a smaller amount, approximately four hundred, but the council voted for the larger quantity of parking spaces.

Go to project page with links to documents including the arborist’s report, Environmental Impact Report and other resources at www.cityofpaloalto.org/psb.

Other California Avenue News

Khoury’s Market has had their soft opening. The dumpsters from the Stanford Hotel have been removed from Oxford Street.

Pastis is now owned by the restauranteur who owns Cafe Brioche.

Barbeques Galore is closing.

Palo Alto Baking Company has closed as of December 31st.

–Ann Balin