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

CTRA Observer Reports for May

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 an update from our Stanford observer.


Stanford

GUP/Development Agreement

On goes the continuing saga!

At the May 9 Planning Commission study session, Stanford submitted a letter requesting that the upcoming Planning Commission hearings be postponed until after the development agreement has been negotiated. It appears that they would rather negotiate everything behind closed doors rather than in public and feel that the summary of proposed Conditions of Approval released in March are heading in a direction that is “unworkable and infeasible.”

The full Conditions of Approval have just been released and are available on the County’s new website covering the GUP: CountyStanford.info. The site also has lots more good information about the process.

Last fall when the Board agreed that the Development Agreement discussion could begin concurrently with the GUP process, they were very clear that it would not take precedence over the GUP itself. The conditions of approval are things that the County can require by law. Anything negotiated in the development agreement would be an addition to that.

The current County Planning Commission meeting schedule is set as:

  • May 23 – Conditions of Approval Released
  • May 30 – 1st Public Hearing, 6:00 p.m. Palo Alto City Council Chambers
  • June 13 – 2nd Public Hearing, 1:30 p.m., County Building, San Jose
  • June 27 – 3rd Public Hearing, 1:30 p.m., County Building, San Jose

It is crucial that as many of us as possible attend the May 30th meeting. Supervisor Simitian is pushing for full mitigation of all impacts and it seems likely that Stanford will not be pleased by that. Since most of the Commissioners are from other areas of the county, it’s important that we have a good attendance so they understand that we care about this issue. If we aren’t there, they may be swayed by whatever Stanford says.

There will be “full mitigation” stickers for folks to wear at the meeting. Please be there, and pick up a sticker, even if you don’t wish to speak.

The Board of Supervisors discussions are expected to begin in September.

As I anticipated last month, the Historic Heritage Commission did take action to advise that the Environmental Impact Report be certified (with respect to protections of historic structures) with the inclusion of the recommended condition of approval to require ongoing evaluations of resources over 50 years old.

As regards the San Juan neighborhood, the HLUET (Housing Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee) requested that the County Staff report back in June with next steps, a timeline, and a public input process for conducting a zoning study and historic review study of the faculty subdivision. The committee concluded that the CRG was not the appropriate way to provide public input but perhaps that a limited-term group of residents could serve that need.

Stanford Development in College Terrace

It appears that the code enforcement request to the City regarding the use of 757/739 College Ave as a storage yard (mentioned last month) has had some effect… There is some progress being made: excavation and forms for the foundations have been done.

–Pria Graves

CTRA Observer Reports for April

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 an update from our Stanford observer.


Stanford

GUP/Development Agreement

The big news this month is that the Development Agreement negotiations between the County and Stanford have been suspended indefinitely. This is in response to the announcement of a “school funding and mitigation agreement” arranged separately but contingent on the eventual approval of the Development Agreement.

Meanwhile, the GUP process continues to be a moving target, with meetings constantly being scheduled/cancelled/rescheduled/etc. The current County Planning Commission meeting schedule is tentatively set as:

  • May 9 – 2nd study session
  • May 23 – 1st Public Hearing (Palo Alto)
  • June 13 – 2nd Public Hearing
  • June 27 – 3rd Public Hearing

The Board of Supervisors discussions will begin after that.

With regard to the Historic Resources section of the GUP, I was unable to attend the April 10th special session of the Historic Heritage Commission due to a Caltrain meltdown. As far as I can understand, however, the staff is recommending that the GUP EIR be approved but with the inclusion of a recommended condition of approval to require ongoing evaluation of all resources over 50 years old. This would provide some protection for the buildings excluded from the Historic Resource Report as written without requiring too much finely detailed discussion at this point. They’re scheduled to vote on it Thursday evening. I can’t be there but expect that it will be a good result and I will share my thoughts on it with the County Board (including Supervisor Simitian) and with the County Planning Commission.

The San Juan neighborhood continues to be very contentious, with discussion of requiring a full historical analysis of the neighborhood and a request for legislative tools to ensure that the board can protect the character of the neighborhood. The next meeting to discuss this is the HLUET (Housing Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee) on Thursday morning. One item under discussion is the possibility of forming a special advisory committee for development of the area.

Fireworks

A reminder that Stanford has both a baseball game and a softball game scheduled for Saturday, April 27th. The games are to be followed by a fireworks show. I have not been able to verify but I anticipate that a County Fire Marshall will be on hand with the authority to cancel the fireworks if we’re experiencing high winds as we have recently.

Please note that the Stanford University noise hotline can be reached at (650) 724-4900. This hotline was implemented as a condition of approval under the 2000 GUP but unfortunately has not had much effect, largely because folks don’t know about it, can’t be bothered to report noise, or have given up. It can be used to report any annoying noises emanating from Stanford such as the never-ending sports announcements or loud music.

Stanford Development in College Terrace

I have submitted a code enforcement request to the City regarding the use of 757/739 College Ave as a storage yard. They have inspected it and have notified Stanford that it needs to be cleaned up.

–Pria Graves