City Council adopts 2018 goals

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / February 3, 2018

City looks to choose grade-separation alternative, add 300 housing units this year

Palo Alto needs to approve 300 housing units, select a new alignment for the rail corridor and make inroads in fighting traffic and addressing budget challenges before the end of the year, the City Council agreed during its priority-setting retreat Saturday.

By a 7-0 vote, with councilmen Tom DuBois and Greg Tanaka absent, the council chose four official priorities for 2018: transportation, housing, finance and grade separation. The council also specified that the “finance” priority should include as a special focus the creation of an “infrastructure funding plan” that considers the recent escalation of construction costs.

Palo Alto: Southgate parking permit trial already under fire

Mercury News – by Kevin Kelly / February 1, 2018

Southgate residents want office employees off their streets, while city looks to add permits to El Camino

Some Southgate neighborhood residents are upset that Palo Alto officials are already talking about changing an experiment designed to make it easier for them to find street parking in front of their homes.

But the council unanimously decided to revisit the trial in June. If Caltrans, which owns and operates El Camino Real, meanwhile agrees to allow permitted parking on the west side, the council indicated it will issue the additional 15 permits to businesses with the intention that they park on El Camino.

On Monday, the council is to consider modifying a parking permit program in the adjacent Evergreen Park/Mayfield neighborhoods. Staff is suggesting that the trial phase there be made permanent.

Changes eyed for Southgate’s parking program

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / January 30, 2018

To assist area employees, City Council looks to add portion of El Camino Real to Residential Preferential Parking district

For residents, Southgate’s new Residential Preferential Parking program is a huge success and should be continued as is. For nearby businesses, the picture is starkly different.

The tussle between residents and businesses created a dilemma for the council. On the one hand, council members sympathized with the workers and deemed their concerns reasonable. On the other, the city didn’t start fully enforcing the one-year pilot program until December. Most residents at Monday’s meeting argued that changing it so early in the process is counterproductive.

The council balked at making any immediate changes. Instead, council members opted to wait another six months before reassessing the program. But in a nod to the employees, the council also supported expanding the Residential Preferential Permit district to the west side of El Camino Real, with the idea of making those parking spots available for area employees.

Palo Alto to challenge Edgewood Plaza ruling

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / January 30, 2018

City Council votes in a closed session to appeal ruling that favored Sand Hill Property Company

Palo Alto plans to appeal a December court ruling that invalidated the city’s fines against Sand Hill Property Company for failing to maintain an operational grocery store at the redeveloped Edgewood Plaza.

By a 7-2 vote, with Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting, the council directed staff Monday night to appeal a Dec. 15 ruling by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan, which effectively invalidated about $318,250 in fines that the city issued to Sand Hill last year.

In issuing its citations, the city had concluded that Sand Hill had violated the conditions of its “planned community” zone by not having an operational grocer at the plaza at 2080 Channing Ave.

Palo Alto school board may ask Stanford for another school site

Palo Alto Daily Post – by Allison Levistsky / January 29, 2018

The Palo Alto school district has responded to Stanford’s plan to expand by 2.3 million square feet with nine demands, including a third elementary school on campus, more on-campus housing and a commitment by the university to not seek tax exemptions for new homes it builds.

In a draft of a letter to Santa Clara County planners that the school board will finalize at a board meeting tomorrow (Jan. 30) night, the district calls for the university to increase its student generation rate, or the average number of K-12 students expected to live in each home the university builds.

The university has set a student generation rate of 0.5, while the school district says 0.98 is more appropriate.

Editorial: Caution on teacher housing

Palo Alto Weekly – by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / January 26, 2018

Simitian vision for subsidized teacher housing has long road to travel

Every organization in Palo Alto — business, nonprofit and government — is struggling with the lack of affordable housing and the resulting employee-recruiting and commute challenges. So before letting teacher housing become the sole focus, we’d like to see clear evidence of need and demand and a policy discussion about whether and why teacher housing should be a higher priority than other subsidized housing when considering the re-purposing of limited public property.

The value of teachers living within the community may very well be worth making it the priority for the use of this county property, but the public deserves a lot more analysis showing such a plan will actually result in the desired outcome before reaching that policy decision.

North Palo Alto residents ramp up traffic battle

Palo Alto Weekly – by Sue Dremann / January 26, 2018

Neighborhood warms to new and creative activism to unclog residential streets

Riled by daily traffic snarls on their residential streets, about 70 Crescent Park residents met with Palo Alto police and transportation officials on Jan. 18 to discuss how to end commuters’ occupation of their neighborhood.

Greg Welch, a Center Drive resident, spearheaded the neighborhood advocacy.

“As our next steps, we will have almost weekly meetings and will be coordinating (with the city),” he said, noting they plan to form a stakeholder group to develop a pilot traffic-management program. The group would work with Palo Alto’s transportation department on creating the program.

The meeting, just the latest movement in a wave of neighborhood activism, covered the expected discussion of pavement markings, traffic circles and stop signs — but also ventured into the realm of politics, with residents talking about potential candidates to support during this year’s City Council election.

Pope-Chaucer bridge: Replacement hits a snag

Palo Alto Daily Post – by Allison Levitsky / January 25, 2018

Replacement of the Pope-Chaucer Street Bridge — which was blamed for much of the damage in the 1998 flood that inundated Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park — could be delayed by a bureaucratic snafu between the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The creek authority plans to replace the bridge with one that doesn’t have concrete blocks that constrict the flow. Currently, so much sediment is built up at the bridge that there are large trees growing out of it, said Len Materman, the creek authority’s executive director.

Creek authority leaders are currently studying the environmental impacts that the project would have in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
But on Jan. 18, the water board sent a letter to the creek authority, urging them to take into account the expected increase in sediment loads flowing from Searsville Dam, a 65-foot masonry dam on Stanford lands upstream in the foothills.

County blesses plan for teacher housing on Grant Ave.

Palo Alto Daily Post – by Allison Levitsksy / January 25, 2018

Santa Clara County supervisors voted unanimously yesterday (Jan. 23) to usher ahead a plan to house public schoolteachers on a 1.5-acre plot of county-owned land across the street from the Palo Alto courthouse.

“This is an idea that has been rolling around in my head and my office for the last couple years,” Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian of Palo Alto said at the meeting. “There’s an opportunity for us to not just do a good thing for a particular part of the county, but to explore some new models.”

The lot at 231 Grant Ave. could fit between 60 and 120 apartments, according to Simitian’s proposal. The site is currently home to a modest 8,000-square-foot building that houses nonprofits and part of the public defender’s office.

Changes on the way for residential parking programs

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / January 24, 2018

New plans calls for adding employee permits to Residential Preferential Parking programs in Evergreen Park and Southgate

Some residents voiced concerns about the process. Christian Pease, who lives in Evergreen Park, said that when the program was implemented, residents were assured that there would be a one-year trial, after which time the program would be revisited for possible modifications. Instead, staff appears to be “pushing forward” with modifications without input from residents and commissioners, he said at the Jan. 10 meeting of the Planning and Transportation Commission.

“We’re wondering what happened to the process,” Pease said. “The process has not been smooth and entirely friendly.”

Some in Southgate have similar feedback. There, staff is proposing to raise the number of employee permits from 10 to 25. Another proposal is to establish a two-hour parking limit along two segments of El Camino Real, near Churchill Avenue and near Park Avenue.