People attending:  Rebecca, Angela, Blanca, Gary, Brendan, Rangu, Penny, Adrian, Zen (owner of Vam), Scott, Ken Joye, Albert Gao,  Andreas, Eric, Ken, Neera,  Jonathan, Kirsten and Frank, Pearlin

Adrian Fine, newly elected to city council, joined us: Born and raised in PA, all PA schools. Studied geography and city planning, works for NextDoor.  Wants young people to have a voice in PA.  Enjoys Palo Alto’s fun, diverse community;

Becky read aloud a list of issues of concern to most of us and asked Adrian to comment:  

  • Erosion of quality of life in PA
  • ATT parcel next to Boulware Park – acquisition and addition to the Park
  • Fry’s site – what will happen there and how can we have a voice?
  • Gentrification, housing for most vulnerable
  • Upzoning on El Camino and zoning exemptions that are granted by city council
  • Concept plan looks at only one quadrant– how might this change/affect  other areas near by?
  • How to keep city focused on what’s important
  • Impact of SB 35 – how to deal with inequality of building homes
  • Parking problems
  • Council’s recent changes to (decimation of?) Comprehensive Plan
  • Airplane noise
  • Bicycle safety

Adrian responded:

Airplane noise – There are viable solutions.  An ad hoc committee being formed by FAA, Simitian and Eshoo.  We’d like to make sure there are people representing Palo Alto  on that committee.  

SB 35 taking away local control on housing – have not discussed in council, but there is a trend for the state to take away control; it’s not just regional problem, but statewide.  State wants to let housing projects go through faster

Fry’s site – he’s particularly interested in.  Council wants to make a specific plan.  Similar to South of Forest neighborhood.  What worked well there?  The process for that neighborhood took too long.  There is a document saying how this could have been done quickly  This is something our Association could have a great influence on , do some research on.  He wants to know what we would like to have there!!  Shopping, housing.  Sobrato owns it and plans to re-develop it.  Does not want Frys.  Our comments: Make Palo Alto a walkable place.  Community- serving businesses.   

Adrian suggests that Pat Bert and Karen Holman might be able to give us some guidance. Amy French.

Code enforcement issues.  (Bridal shop, restaurant warehouse)  

Retail is struggling because of higher rent.  We do have an ordinance preserving ground floor retail – Adrian feels this is not always helpful.  Some of the El Camino businesses are ready for re-development.  Lots are very narrow.  There are ways to fix it.  

Our comments:  We would like some of the community-serving businesses that might not make it on El Camino unless they were subsidized – hardware or electronics.

Becky would like to see some sort of private-public partnership as a model for redevelopment

Frank would like something to be done about vacant lots (such as the old auto body shop and the vacant lot across the street from it) and why the landlords are leaving these lots vacant

Fine really wants to make El Camino more walkable. Some property owners are waiting to see what’s going to happen with El Camino and the ownership is very broken up on El Camino.  Would be nice to see someone do something with several properties in a row.   

Kirsten: The redesign of Stanford Ave was done because it’s a bicycle safety area – we should also have that in our neighborhood.   

Code Enforcement

– There are currently three code enforcement officers

– Kirsten highlighted the Coupa Café warehouse that is “retail”

– Adrian encouraged people to report violations using the Palo Alto 311 app to get the problems into the City’s system

– Zen suggested that we go directly to the business owners with complaints to see how something can be worked out since he would be happy to correct any problems we have.

Council Actions on Monday (Jan 30) meeting

– Adrian said that there were a series of votes regarding the land use portion of the Comprehensive Plan which has been worked on for the past 6-7 years.  There were a few items where consensus could not or has not been reached.  He explained that the 50 foot height limit and office development cap are not included in the Comprehensive Plan.  In practice, the Comprehensive Plan can be changed when it needs to be.

-The 50 foot height limit ordinance was set around 1977-78 because tall buildings such as the Bank of America building and City Hall were being built.  A 50’ building is approximately 3.5 stories.  They are considering modifying this to become a story limit instead of the current hard number limit.  For example, ground floor retail stores would like to be around 15’ tall which leaves less room for upper stories.  A possible ordinance modification can be that a taller building would be allowed if the bottom floor is for retail.

– Office development cap is currently 50,000 sq. ft. per year.

– Neighbors pointed out to Adrian the 441 Page Mill project where neighbors on Pepper Ave went to the City Council multiple times  to voice their concerns and complaints about the project which were directly behind their homes.  However, they weren’t heard and the Council approve the project.  These neighbors were greatly disheartened by the whole experience; some say they have PTSD from the experience.

– Adrian said that he thinks a lot of codes are outdated.  The 1998 Comprehensive Plan is what we use right now but it expired in 2010.  Adrian wants to keep specifics out of the Comprehensive Plan and that the revision process was taking a very long time.  So the programs are moved to the appendix such that the Comprehensive Plan is about the goals and policies.

ADA Compliance

– The neighbors pointed out the lack of ADA compliance around Ventura such as telephone poles in the middle of sidewalks and the construction sites that take over bike lanes on Park Blvd.

–  Adrian has been a Palo Alto resident his entire life, growing up in this city, and he acknowledges that Ventura is rather invisible in this city and that the attention and care to Ventura is more low quality than the rest of Palo Alto.  He did bring up the point that when any construction happens, the city is required to upgrade streetscape to be ADA compliant, but old hazards are “grandfathered in.”

Page Mill and Park intersection

– Dangerous intersection shared by motorists, bikers, and pedestrians

– Drivers currently park in the bike lane in front of Park Plaza to load or unload passengers which is dangerous for bikers.

– Adrian pointed out that some new developments have started an Uber/Lyft spot (painted pink) to pick up and drop off passengers that are in a safe spot, i.e. not in the bike lanes.

– It was pointed out that Jordan Middle School recently got white pillars installed to protect student who bike from cars on the road.  Terman students have no such safety barriers. A sense of non-parity there between the two communities.

Parking Problems

– Gary brought up the inadequacy of parking where developers have a parking waiver if they hand out VTA passes or something similar to encourage commuters to use public transportation.

– Adrian responded that there is a transportation management program in the city that helps out with handing out bus passes, especially to help low-wage employees.  For example, two-thirds of Coupa Café employees use VTA or SamTrans bus passes that they got for free.

– Adrian also thinks that residential parking solution is really just a whack-a-mole game where commuters park in neighborhoods right outside the neighborhoods with parking permit programs.  A possible solution might be to put the whole city on a parking permit program.

Boulware Park Expansion

– Jonathan wanted to bring to Adrian’s attention that Ventura is interested in expanding Boulware Park by annexing the parcel currently owned by AT&T that is right next to the park.  There is support from the Parks & Recs committee.  The parcel is currently zoned as a Public Facility.  However, AT&T would like to get full market value for the property which would mean changing its zoning.  As a neighborhood, we would like  to see the City to keep the zoning as Public Facility and annex the parcel to Boulware Park.  We are already an underserved neighborhood in terms of available park space so this addition is critical.

– There was a suggestion that a Magical Bridge type of playground could be installed on that new part of the park if we can get it added to Boulware Park.

Parting Words

– Adrian thanked us for inviting him to the meeting.  The city’s priorities are housing and transportation.

– He advised us to figure out what we want as a neighborhood for the Fry’s area.  This could link to retail and fixing sidewalks.  The City Council would have to start the committee for a community directed plan.

Adrian left after this.

Ken Joye

– He is forming a Cal Ave concept plan study group which includes the Fry’s area.  Contact him if interested.

– Block Preparedness Coordinator- next meeting is Feb 23.  The following streets still need a coordinator: Wilton, Fernando, Olive, Pepper, 2nd Street, Jacobs Court

Becky Sanders

– She wants to find a system for people to help with flyers such as one person could cover 20-30 homes.  

Retail and Zen

– Zen is the owner of Valencia Asian Market (VAM) on El Camino

– He’s had a number of issues trying to figure out what to do with the space next to VAM.  He would like to open a restaurant however he would need at least 10 parking spaces available.  Also, there are issues with some of the current tenants of his building which he also manages.

– Kirsten suggested that we have a brainstorm of what we want as a neighborhood.

– Zen asked us what we as a neighborhood would want to see in that empty space.

– It was decided that there should be a separate meeting to discuss that particular retail area.

Becky Sanders

– Palo Alto Housing Corporation bought the property with the coin shop and would most likely be building BMR housing there.

 Minutes taken by Pearlin Yang and Angela Dellaporta

OUR NEXT MEETING WILL BE ON MARCH 12, 2017 at 1:30, and Councilmember Greg Tanaka will be our special guest.  Please check on his responses to the Palo Alto Neighborhood’s Candidate Questionnaire from last election season at this link.


Minutes of the Ventura Neighborhood Association  Meeting 2/5/17

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