Stanford/Bowdoin Crosswalk Improvements Coming

This spring, the City of Palo Alto Office of Transportation will install high-visibility yellow crosswalks and required school crossing signage to the Stanford/Bowdoin intersection. This project was initiated by PTA Transportation Safety Representatives of Escondido and Nixon Elementary Schools approaching the City of Palo Alto’s Safe Routes to School and Stanford staff to improve student visibility.

After several observations with PTA volunteers and design iterations by Stanford’s consultants, City staff and the project stakeholders agreed that the striping and signage project was an important step in enhancing safety at this busy intersection for students and other road users due to the proximity to two elementary schools and high use by students of all ages.

After installation, the City and Safe Routes partners will continue to monitor the intersection as a regular activity of the Safe Routes to School Partnership. Questions about the project can be sent to SafeRoutes@cityofpaloalto.org.

In other good news for neighborhood pedestrians, Caltrans is installing Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs) at several intersections along El Camino Real, including one at College Avenue.

PHBs are flashing signals that tell drivers to stop when pedestrians are crossing the roadway. The installation process at Palo Alto intersections (Vista Ave, Barron Ave, Fernando Ave, College Ave, and Palo Alto Ave) is scheduled to begin this month and the full project should be completed by summer.

Please see the City of Palo Alto’s Stop for Pedestrians flyer for more information on how drivers and pedestrians should use these crosswalk safety enhancements. For more information, contact Caltrans Public Information Officer for District 4, Victor Gauthier at victor.gauthier@dot.ca.gov.

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 our Stanford and California Avenue observers.


California Avenue Business District

Khoury’s Market

The city has approved a permit application for exterior improvements to the building that include new paint, new storefront glazing, new lighting, and new planters to an outdoor seating/gathering area. The application was submitted in September and approved earlier this month.

The September application also included a proposal for exterior signage, however a decision was made to remove that item and re-submit it as a separate application. That occurred on February 8. It calls for the installation of two “Khoury’s Market” signs: one above the El Camino Real entrance way, and one on Oxford Avenue. The plans also show a horizontal illuminated, vertical projecting, “parking here” sign (i.e., a “P” within a circle above an arrow within a circle) just past the garage ramps.

Senior planning staff also informs us that:

  • The planner assigned “is working expeditiously with the applicant towards an approval, but there are no guarantees the application will be approved in March.”
  • Code Enforcement is looking into the bins that have replaced the dumpsters on Oxford Avenue across the street from the market.
  • While the roof globe lights were part of the original permit, the prior property owner had made a commitment to turn the lights off after the grocery store closes at night. Once the new owners get a building permit, they will be free to remove them.

Inside the market itself, grocery carts have been delivered and an Italian coffee machine is on order. Stop by and let a member of the Khoury family know your suggestions.

–Ann Balin


Stanford

Now that the holidays are over, things have picked up again! 

First, the County Historical Heritage Commission is continuing to look at the Historic Resources section of the GUP Application.  The County has hired a second peer review firm, JRP Historical Consulting, to address various questions about Stanford’s methodology for determining which structures are “historic”.  The HHC’s next meeting was pushed out from February 21st and is now scheduled for March 6 at 6:30 p.m. 

In addition, Supervisor Simitian approached PAST Heritage, requesting them to weigh in.  They have agreed to step up and craft a letter which will go initially to the HHC and then most likely to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.   

At a Community Resources Group meeting last fall, Stanford staff made the point of telling us that they had presented their historic analysis to Palo Alto’s Historic Resources Board.  But at the PAST board meeting last week, one of the HRB members expressed disappointment that this “presentation” was only a study session and they were not given the chance to make any recommendation to Council concerning this important item.  

On the main GUP path, the first two County Planning Commission study sessions have been scheduled for February 28th and March 14th, both at 1:30 p.m.  Supervisor Simitian continues to support full mitigation for impacts and a group of Stanford students have launched a petition requesting this too. 

Finally, regarding the zoning amendment in the San Juan area of the campus, the Board of Supervisors felt that there was no ground for them to deny the application.  Everything about it was consistent with the General Plan and Stanford Community Plan as they currently stand.  And since it was actually a down-zoning (from Academic Campus to Campus Residential-Low Density), they had to allow it.  However, Supervisor Simitian added an amendment directing staff to investigate possible changes to these overarching plans to give the Board tools that would allow them to deny future similar applications in the San Juan neighborhood.

–Pria Graves

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