September 1996 Newsletter

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MRA, Property Owners, and Merchants Agree on Framework for Flexible Zoning to Encourage Midtown Revitalization
Midtown Neighbors Online Project Update
Second Story Additions May Violate Neighbor’s Backyard Privacy
Come to a Midtown Community Gathering!

MRA, Property Owners, and Merchants Agree on Framework for Flexible Zoning to Encourage Midtown Revitalization

In July, as the result of the City-sponsored Midtown Revitalization Process which began last fall, representatives of the Midtown Residents Association, Midtown commercial property owners and Midtown merchants came to an agreement that recommended changes to the current zoning law to the City Council. These changes, while still protecting neighborhood interests, will make it possible for commercial property owners to make investments which will lead to new shops coming into the Midtown center.

The new zoning, for example, will allow sharing of parking and buildable square footage between all the parcels in the area between Colorado and Moreno, rather than applying the requirements to each individual parcel. This increased flexibility will make the area more attractive for remodeling and new businesses.

Other main points of the agreement include:

The full text of the consensus document is as follows:

We support the development of a Conceptual Master Plan which will allow the owners of commercial property in the northeast quadrant of the Midtown area to proceed with revitalization as quickly as possible

We encourage the City Council to establish a zoning mechanism that would allow the northeast quadrant of Midtown to be developed in totality as a neighborhood commercial shopping center with shared parking and other requirements, rather than applying current zoning standards to each individual property within the center.

The goal of this revitalization would be to create a dynamic, profitable retail area that is compatible with the neighborhood and addresses neighborhood concerns.

To accomplish this goal, representatives of the commercial property owners and the Midtown Residents Association came to agreement on the following specific points at a meeting at Council member Ron Andersen's home on Friday, June 21:

  1. The traffic light currently located on Middlefield between the Co-op Market and Baskin Robbins should be moved as quickly as possible to the proposed location across from Bryson Ct., creating a true intersection with a left-turn lane from Middlefield into the shopping area.
  2. The overall maximum square footage to be developed in the area covered by the new zoning should not exceed the size that would allow all retail and office parking (including employees) to be accommodated within the shopping center and not overflow onto adjacent residential streets.
  3. In addition to space for required parking, adequate square footage should be provided for other amenities: public plazas or meeting areas, bicycle parking racks and access routes, bus pullout and passenger areas, landscaping zones of sufficient size for trees, setbacks from adjacent residential buildings, and loading/delivery areas.
  4. The center should include one or more anchor stores and several satellite shops that will provide for a variety of retail opportunities, and be designed with local, pedestrian scale.
  5. We want to encourage the development of retail uses in the center. We recognize that office space will be a component, but office space should have a secondary priority.
  6. A City-funded traffic study should be undertaken after the changes are made to determine the impact of the new traffic, circulation and parking patterns on the adjoining residential areas (Colorado, Moreno, Cowper, Ross and Marion streets). Appropriate mitigation (such as traffic calming devices) should be provided by the City to offset any significant negative impacts.

Finally, recognizing that the commercial property owners have expressed willingness to assess themselves approximately 15 cents per square foot toward landscaping and other amenities for the center, the Midtown Residents Association and the property owners are ready to work together to find a source of low-cost loans which will stretch these funds even further. We encourage the City Council to join with us in an effort to develop such low-cost financing.

We appreciate the Council's financial support for and involvement in the Midtown revitalization process. We look forward to working together to address the interests of all the stakeholders as the next steps of the process unfold.

Midtown Neighbors Online Project Update

The results are in! Here is an update on the Neighbors Online Bulletin Board and Meeting Place Survey sponsored by our Midtown Residents Association, Midpeninsula Public Access (MPAC) and Palo Alto Community Network (PA-COMNET). Thank you to everyone who filled out our recent survey to decide if there was sufficient interest to develop an Online Community for neighbors in Midtown to meet, share ideas, and help each other with day-to-day needs, from homework assistance to gardening advice.

Yes, there is interest! We received more than a 5% return on the survey. Nearly every respondent indicated a desire for such a network. 50% of the respondents are already online, and 52% indicated that they would pay $15-25 annually to support a neighborhood network.

We are on our way! A general meeting of interested participants is planned for:

October 1st   Cubberley Community Center   Room H1   7:30--9:30 PM.

Room H1 is located on the Charleston Shopping Center side of Cubberley. Drive south on Middlefield, pass the Charleston shopping center, and make the first right into the driveway. We will post signs to direct you to the room.

Palo Alto Mayor Lanie Wheeler will kick off the meeting, followed by keynote speaker Steve Cisler, who will discuss community networking. Steve is a senior scientist at Apple Computers, where they affectionately call him a "library evangelist" due to his background as a librarian and his international reputation in the establishment, development, and support of community networks. We will talk about the next steps for the project and break into special interest groups.

The Survey Results

Topics of Interest Responses Topics of Interest Responses
Revitalizing Midtown 158 Homes for Sales 74
Crime Watch 115 Places to Go 74
Emergency Preparedness 111 Block Parties 70
Traffic 96 Meeting Announcements 69
Gardening 92 Items for Sale 68
Home Repairs 89 Store Specials 62
Safety 88 Babysitting 52
Yard Sales 79 Social Services Information 49
Local Restaurant Menus 78 Welcome New Neighbors 47
Shopping Comparisons 76 Parenting 45
Housing and Rent Costs 76    

Second Story Additions May Violate Neighbor’s Backyard Privacy

An Opinion by Betty Land, 856-6282

The Palo Alto municipal code regulation, Ch.16.48.010, pp 1693-94, declaration of goals and purposes, reads:

(d) enhance the desirability of living conditions upon the immediate site or in adjacent areas; and (3) Promote visual environments which are of high aesthetic quality and variety and which, at the same time, are considerate of each other. (Ord. 3416, 1 (part), 1983)

One Midtown permit, issued February 20, 1996, in an established neighborhood along Colorado, ignores that municipal code goal: an approved second-story 9x5-foot picture window looks directly down into the adjoining neighbor’s property twenty feet from the lot line.

The Palo Alto Planning Department signed off on this site, saying it is all legal. Irrespective of Comprehensive Plan goals, contractors can and will continue to build whatever they want within square footage requirements, even in established neighborhoods. Is there any recourse against this "violation"? And please don't say, "Plant trees."

[Editor’s note: If you have similar concerns about remodels along your street, please call Betty Land at the number above.]

Come to a Midtown Community Gathering!

Sunday   October 13   1--4 p.m.
Seale Park

3100 Stockton (between Louis & Greer, Stockton @ Maddux)

Come meet your neighbors and talk about what's on your mind! Share your ideas with members of the Midtown Residents Association and City officials and sign up for neighborhood projects:

Bring the kids, balls, and frisbees
--- and any extra tomatoes, squash, apples, etc. for a neighborhood produce exchange!

MRA will provide cold drinks --- you provide the conversation and the fun!
Food is optional, but bring something if you'd like; there are several BBQ stoves.

(Seale Park has a nice skating bowl and a basketball court as well.)

Questions? Call: Annette Ashton 321-1280
    Sylvia Gartner 493-2678
    Debbie Mytels 856-7580


More WWW Sites for your surfing pleasure. If you'd like to contribute to the list, send a note to or call Sheri at 856-0869.

Palo Alto Business Directory
California Ave. Business
CalTrain Schedule
Job Search Guides
Virtual Tourist - California
Master Gardener Information
Discover Magazine
Movie Search
World Wide Waiter
Send an Online Postcard
Palo Alto Jewish Community

For online information about various local churches, use one of the following search engines:
then search on "Palo Alto churches" (include the quotes)

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