|March 1996 Newsletter|
|Midtown Shopping Center Update|
|Financing: One of the Obstacles to Change in Midtown|
|Midtown Neighbors Online|
|Co-op Market Seeks Midtown Board Members|
|Something New In Midtown|
|Join Our Next General Meeting on Disaster Preparedness|
|Palo Alto—Another Atherton?|
Led by Nancy Yeend, a city-paid facilitator, the meeting also includes representatives of the commercial property owners and the retail merchants. City-wide interests are represented by Planning Commissioner Sandy Eakins and Dave Ross of the Architectural Review Board (both of whom are Midtown area residents). Councilman Ron Andersen (also a neighborhood resident) and Mayor Lanie Wheeler are participating as observers. Steve Player, former president of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, is also a part of the city-wide stakeholder group.
Others involved include John Northway, a Palo Alto architect who has been hired by the commercial property owners to create some redesign options, and two consultants hired by the City: Tim Kelly, an economic development consultant, and Larry Patterson, a traffic consultant. The Chamber of Commerce has also pulled together a "mentoring group" of local developers who will help the commercial property owners examine the economics behind various revitalization options.
The first two stakeholder meetings, held before the holidays, laid the groundwork for future meetings which are expected to be more substantive. The next meeting has not been scheduled, since the commercial property owners are currently working with the mentoring team to explore the possibilities of a unified approach to the redesign of their buildings. These ideas will then be sketched out by the architect and presented to the full stakeholder group for comment. This stage of the process will probably take several months, and a conceptual plan for Midtown revitalization may be completed by late spring at the earliest.
The Midtown Residents' Association, while remaining flexible about the specifics of how the shopping area might be redesigned, will evaluate the property owners' proposals based on the four concepts that have been expressed by many area residents in various forums:
Local residents who would like to get involved in the revitalization process are encouraged to call Debbie Mytels of the MRA at 856-7580.
Many of us have seen the empty buildings on the Midtown area for the past several years and have been wondering what the community can do to assist in the revitalization of our neighborhood shopping center. After talking to people and studying the issues, it seems clear to me that the major underlying problem is the cost of financing the significant building improvements that need to be made in order to attract new tenants and viable businesses.
The owners of the Midtown buildings are not deep pockets real estate investors—and because of constraints on building size and parking (which have been establishes as protections to the neighborhood), these sites have also not been particularly attractive to outside investors who might seek to redevelop them. To revitalize Midtown, everyone acknowledges that capital investment is necessary. The big question is: where will it come from?
There are at least four possible models that can be explored:
Incidentally, there is a precedent in Palo Alto for using public funds for private purposes: the City has recently provided loans to the City Manager and several other top staff to purchase homes within the community. The public benefit of having staff live in town is seen as greater than the risk of default on the loans, and the interest rate on the loans in above the low level at which City funds are normally invested.
Rather than waiting for the typical venture capitalist scenario to unfold, several of us in the MRA are interested in discussing the possibilities of developing other sources of funds for Midtown revitalization, perhaps combining options 3) and 4). If you are interested in discussing these ideas, please call Debbie Mytels at 856-7580.
We are getting close to launching a neighborhood project that will enable Midtown neighbors to help each other out and discuss topics of mutual interest via computer. Anyone with a computer can be a part of it from home, and those without one will be able to plug in at a couple of public access sites.
Neighbors will be able to compare notes on home repair, home sales, street safety, baby-sitters, places to go, parenting, and revitalizing Middlefield Road. People might lend each other tools, recipes, cassettes, or a good ear. It will be easy to start a topic of your own, or go directly to the ones that interest you. Post "buy and sell" notices, help neighborhood kids with homework questions, or find out what the houses on your block are selling for.
So far, there is a local Internet Service Provider that has offered to host our neighborhood conference and provide e-mail accounts for $5 per month per user for a one year pilot project. The Midtown Residents' Association and a volunteer organization called PACOMNET (Palo Alto Community Network) are raising funds to support a part time coordinator position and several phone lines dedicated to our computer project.
We now need a small army of volunteers who can give a couple of hours monthly to help publicize this electronic bulletin board and show our neighbors how to use it. We are looking for volunteers to do the following:
We also need someone who would like to be the coordinator of the project. Any volunteers? No experience is necessary! Call Elliot Margolies at the Mid-Peninsula Access Corporation, 494-8686, to get involved.
If you are interested in joining the PACOMNET online mailing list, here's how to sign up:
The Palo Alto Co-op Market, which was started over 60 years ago, has operated a store in Midtown since the late 1960s. The building is owned outright by its members, represented by a Board of Directors who are elected each spring. Since the Co-op is one of the major retailers in Midtown, local residents have an important stake in how the Co-op is governed. Midtown residents have an opportunity to work with other members of the Co-op Board to set policies for the store and ensure that it remains an important shopping option in our neighborhood.
If you are a Co-op member and would like to find out more about serving on the Co-op Board, contact Joyce Thompson of the Co-ops Nominating Committee at 494-1065. (If you're not a Co-op member, it costs just $10 to join; ask one of the clerks for a membership form.)
The Palo Alto Cafe is a great place to meet your friends, take a shopping break, read the morning news, and pick up some fresh roasted coffee, croissants, and other goodies. Rob Binkley has expanded from La Creme de Cafe at Loma Verde and Middlefield to the heart of Midtown.
Palo Alto Cafe is located in the front part of the old Midtown Pharmacy, next to the expanded Midtown Video shop and the new Karate Studio, and across the street from Peninsula Hardware. In addition to the Espresso Bar, there is a Bagel and Pastry Bar with a choice of spreads (referred to as smears). If you have a yen for something fruity, the cafe also has a Smoothie Bar and fresh squeezed orange juice.
Come to 2675 Middlefield Road! They're open from morning to night, 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (M-F), 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekends.
How well do you know the people on your block? Who would need special help in an emergency such as a flood or earthquake? Not only do we need to be personally prepared for a disaster, we also need to establish, mark, and communicate the MRA's physical boundaries to the Palo Alto Fire Chief. The chief will include the information on a map for the citywide disaster preparedness plan. Each area or neighborhood group is asked to name two representatives to attend the Fire Chief's meetings on preparedness for fire, earthquake, flood, or other disaster, and later share the information with all neighborhood groups.
At our next meeting we will discuss plans for block organization and emergency preparations.
You've probably seen the "Living With Our Faults" booklet distributed by the Palo Alto Fire Department (if not, call 329-2184). So what's in your emergency kit? Do you have one for the house and another in your car? What do you think should be included that doesn't ordinarily appear on preparation lists? Where do you buy supplies? Send us your tips and well pass them along in the newsletter (as well as through our incipient online Neighborhood Conference site). To get you started, here are some ideas:
|Basics||Food and water for at least 3-5 days (don't forget your pets); first aid kit; flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries (make sure flashlight and radio use same batteries); camping supplies (stove, tent, sleeping bags and lantern); paper plates and cups; plastic eating utensils; towelettes|
|Personal||Warm clothing and boots or shoes, sanitation supplies (soap, toilet paper, paper towels), personal hygiene supplies, prescription medicine and extra glasses|
|Tools||Water purification drops and a pump filter at a camping store, can opener, heavy duty plastic garbage bags, small shovel, gloves, sharp knife, rope, crow bar or other prying tools|
|Miscellaneous||Waterproof matches, notepad and pens in a Ziploc bag, personal ID, cash and coins|
|Suppliers||Earthquake Outlet / IOR Inc.
Redwood City, CA 94063
|Simpler Life Emergency Provisions
PO Box 700704
San Jose, CA 95170
|Beehive Country Store
5807 Winfield Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95123
by Eleanor Bassler
Another new house is about to appear in our Midtown neighborhood. This large two-story house (3155 sq. ft.) is being built by an Atherton developer at the cornet of Bruce and Louis—next to my house. My once bright and sunny home will be in its shadow and my privacy a thing of the past. Developments such as this start quietly. I've learned that neither the city nor the developer are required to provide neighbors with any notice about planned new construction. My attempts to contact the developer were ignored.
The replacement of smaller homes with trophy houses is happening with greater frequency in the Midtown area. Out-of-town developers make large profits building these huge houses. They seem unconcerned that these houses are often totally out of character with the neighborhood or that they diminish the quality of life in adjacent homes. Maximum profit is the goal.
The cumulative effect of these large houses nibbles away at our community life in ways that I think are just as destructive as the larger developments we fight against. I've heard that developers would like to see Palo Alto become another Atherton. Is this inevitable given the increasing land values? Are people with smaller houses and simpler life styles becoming an anachronism in this town? Can anything be done? Existing laws permit the kind of construction that is occurring now. Should changes be made in these laws? Call me at 856-6326 if you'd like to try to find answers to some of these questions!
More WWW Sites for your surfing pleasure. If you'd like to contribute to the list, send a note to email@example.com or call Sheri at 856-0869.
|Consumer Information Center||http://www.gsa.gov/staff/pa/cic/cic.htm|
|City of Palo Alto Home Page||http://www.city.palo-alto.ca.us|
|PA-Comnet Home Page||http://www.persimmon.com/palo/city/
|Epicurious Home Page||http://www.epicurious.com/epicurious/
|The New York Times||http://www.nytimes.com/|
|Fun With Maps||http://www.etak.com/Fun-With-Maps.html
Allows you to enter a location in the Bay
Area to see it on the map, and to get
precise text directions between any 2
points in the Bay Area
|Cyberteens Home Page||http://www.mtlake.com/cyberteens/|
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