Ventura Neighborhood Association meeting minutes 12/4/2016
Special Guest: Lydia Kou
Lydia Kou, newly elected city council member, joined us. She has been a member of the Barron Park neighborhood association for many years. She is aware of communication gaps between the neighborhoods and the city. Information from city often does not get to the neighborhoods; decisions are made that do not get residents’ input. Lydia wants to see residents’ opinions getting more playtime in city decisions. Ventura and California Ave are high on her list – any projects should be considered carefully in terms of their impact on streets, parking and safety. Barron Park Association has been strongly established for many years. Galvanizing issues in Barron Park were underground toxin leakage + annexation of that neighborhood.
The issues that are of concern to our neighborhood
(based on the attending neighbors at this meeting – in no particular order):
* Learning the best avenues for residents’ opinions to be heard – now and in future
-Special concern that North Palo Alto residents seem to be heard more by the city council than do South Palo Alto residents.
Park issues (opacity re process) (Lydia will have to get more information about that issue)
* Safe Routes to School and Bicycle paths (green paint).
Divisiveness in Palo Alto re development– how to get past that?
Mitigation of development (eg, all development near train station at Cal Ave is in one quadrant! – also, how can we mitigate the impact of the development that comes from the train station
Vision for El Camino Real
Where are there opportunities to house the most vulnerable – specifically poor and elderly?
* Community Gardens, Rain Barrels, Storm Drain issues (not funded enough. Mail-in vote coming up in February) (paloaltostormwater.org)
* How can you (Lydia) be true to yourself and also represent all of Palo Alto (esp re development)?
Lydia’s answer: It’s easy; just listen to the residents. Happy to engage residents more, and to come to neighborhood meetings. Decided to run for City Council partly because the southern end of Palo Alto does not get heard as much.
The city manager and three other people from City Council will come to neighborhood town hall meeting to listen to neighborhoods. They do four throughout the year. How do we sign up for one of these? They schedule the meeting and send email to Association. They want to get a list of issues beforehand.
Ventura Neighborhood Association listserve.
Barron Park has three email lists that everyone can participate in.
1. BP News – moderated
2. Issues List – not moderated. You can talk about any issues
3. Miscellaneous List – “We found a cat” or other smaller neighborhood information.
They can also put together a smaller subcommittee to work on issues.
NextDoor sells their databases, and is not as safe as a private internal neighborhood list.
Developments affecting our neighborhood :
Page Mill + El Camino
Neighborhood apartments – need rehabilitation.
Coin shop property was bought by Palo Alto Housing Corp, what’s the plan there
Fake wedding shop? Other fake shops?
Who do we reach out to so we don’t find out about developments too late to do anything about them. ?
Golden Gate Homes developer came to listen to residents. They said one thing but presented something different to City Council.
Lydia: Developments only come to city council if there is disagreement or controversy or they need zoning.
Neighborhood Association should reach out to any developer if we find out about developments in pipeline
City Council is very concerned about displacement and affordability. Even a remodel or update can trigger higher rents. Get involved in knowing what’s in the pipeline. I will reach out and send it out on my blog/website.
Pearlin: City of Palo Alto Planning update newsletter gives you information on everything in the pipeline. Pearlin would like to work with Lydia to know who the developers are, whom to contact. She wonders’ “If I were rich, would some developments have been different?”
Ken’s vision: Apartments on Curtner. Imagine if each was developed separately (to keep disruption to a minimum), more densely, so everyone could move back in. Currently they are substandard and over parked – some people even parking on sidewalk How could we do that without displacing many people?
Rent Control? Backfired in Mountain View (?) Mass evictions began just before rent control went into effect. Evicting or raising rents require 30-60 days notice.
44% of Palo Alto residents rent. Is there any way to track rent increases? According to Lydia, if it’s on MLS it can be tracked, but on Craigslist, etc it’s not reported. No real way to know what the rents are.
Re: parking on sidewalk. Lydia suggests calling police. K – the problem is the width of the streets. One could remove parking from one side of street, but that would not help community. B – we want to find a collaborative solution that would help everyone in the community.
2555 Park Blvd. Development is not fully parked. Allowing only bike parking and providing a Go Pass was supposed to mitigate car traffic. Go pass – how do you know if they are using a go pass? Currently no way to know if they are using them. The only way to check on the effectiveness of the plans is to ask the owner if the mitigations are successful. Puts fox in charge of henhouse.
Claire. – We could invite some of the Curtner apartment owners to discuss possible alternatives.
Traffic and Bicycles
Bob: Troubled by the issue of bikes not stopping at stop signs.
Jonathan – Having a Safe Route to School that does not have a dedicated bike lane is a travesty. “Sharrows” are not good enough, not safe.
Ken: Sharrows are supposed to indicate to bikers where there might be car doors. There are some streets that have not enough room for a bike lane. Kids are given instruction on what Sharrows mean. But this may not be adequate for safety. Add more traffic calming measures. That’s what works best.
Traffic bumps/speed tables are being proposed for Maclane and Wilkie. If interested in this issue, we are encouraged to write some feedback to the transportation committee firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becky – Would like to have point people to keep their pulse on specific issues.
Ken – biking and traffic issues
Pearline – social
Vision for El Camino
Ken – How does El Camino in Menlo Park get along with just 2 lanes on each side (with a beautiful set of trees. Why not make all of El Camino in Palo Alto like that?
General Questions: How do we develop along El Camino so that people who live behind the development are not badly affected?
Why are the buildings built all the way out to the sidewalk? There is a 50 foot height limit. And there is a stepped requirement if they are next to R-1. Take a look at the new building at the corner of ElCamino and Curtner.
Angela – One idea that might be appealing to everyone (including the people who live in the apartments near El Cam) is to put a second entrance at the back of the stores, the side that is not on El Camino, and make that alley area walkable, attractive and pleasant, so that it becomes the “sidewalk” rather than the El Camino side. It could even become a pleasant place for people to sit – insulated from the traffic of El Camino. Take out some of the asphalt and replace it with greenery, flowers, trees. Hide the garbage dumpsters in attractive enclosures. Put small tables and chairs behind coffee and sandwich places. They would be very appealing if they were not right on El Camino. A solution for parking would have to be developed – but that is not insurmountable. These changes could make our neighborhood a very attractive place for small businesses.
Lydia – Developers also have to deal with laws from State that will affect neighborhood. Education of how to protest or ask is so important. Many residents don’t know their avenues of communication.
Lydia wants to work from the grassroots level.
Here is how best to be heard by the city council > The city wants to see large crowds come forward before they will believe that it’s a problem. When you ask people to send in an email, write up a sample email to help them know what to say. Personal emails are best, but copied text works too – it’s volume that counts the most. It has to be an overwhelming number of emails for them to believe that it’s a problem. Best to do it by Sunday night before the council meeting.
Citycouncil@cityof paloalto.org. Or email@example.com
Bill – There is validity to the bomb threat fear at ATT building. That could be why they have left that land next to the park undeveloped.
Idea for voting for Palo Alto City Council: Divide Palo Alto by district and have a representative from each district on the council.
Two new Block Preparedness Coordinators Kevin Zeng and Elizabeth Esbenshade
Party Pack available for Block Parties
Adrian Fine, new council member, will join us in February. Tanaka will come in March.
Next meeting Jan 8, 1:30 p.m..
Respectfully submitted by A. Dellaporta