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Cover Story


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examining an option in which Municipal Services Center functions are moved to multiple locations. Po-

tential properties include the 7-acre Honda and Audi sites on Embarcadero Road (as a possible land swap) and the 6.5-acre Los Altos Sewage Treatment Plant land just north of San Antonio Road, east of 101, ac-

cording to the report. “There’s not a whole lot of independent vacant land sitting around in Palo Alto,� Emslie said. But he noted that the interest from auto dealers, after waning during

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the recession, remains strong. “This is like their dream market. For them to be here — this is the dream demographic.� Palo Alto officials were eying major changes at the Municipal Services Center even before the infrastructure commission released its report. The council passed a capital budget last year that includes $100,000 to study options for upgrading or relocating Municipal Services Center and Animal Services Center functions. The council also included $100,000 to upgrade lighting, mechanical and electrical equipment at three Municipal Services Center buildings. The budget notes that the

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systems “no longer support the current operation at this site.� Public Works Director Michael Sartor said that both of these capital projects are currently on hold, pending council direction. On Jan. 17, in their first discussion of the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission report, council members expressed a willingness to consider major changes to the Municipal Services Center, though their enthusiasm was tempered by skepticism about finding land in other parts of the city for the operations. Councilman Larry Klein said he couldn’t think of a parcel large enough to accommodate the functions, and a new study would be unlikely to change that fact. “I scratch my head at that and say, ‘Where?’� Klein said. “Does anyone have ideas where we can have anything like the necessary space west of 101?� Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said she would like the city to consider the site for uses that would be “less showy� than auto dealerships — things relating to Baylands activities such as kayaking or bike rentals. Councilwoman Karen Holman wondered about the impact of auto dealerships on the Baylands, particularly if the dealership were to install billboards. She suggested moving some of the Municipal Services Center operations to other nearby sites, such as near the fields on Geng Road. This would open up the East Bayshore land for uses that would have a low impact, such as playing fields, she said. “While (the dealerships) are not on the Baylands, they really would have a visual impact on the Baylands and would change what we carried on as policy and character,� Holman said. Mark Michael, the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission member who evaluated the Municipal Services Center site and who was recently appointed to the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission, agreed that any plan to revitalize the East Bayshore property as a commercial hub must be particularly sensitive to the Baylands. But changes could actually benefit nature lovers by creating new amenities for them, he said. “I think doing something that would (be) economically beneficial along East Bayshore wouldn’t necessarily be unattractive or detract from enjoyment of nature by people,� Michael said. “It might in fact bring people closer to appreciating nature.� Michael also said that if the city were to acquire the auto dealers’ Embarcadero Road properties in a land swap — whether part of the Municipal Services Center were to relocate there are not — the city could try to attract restaurants and other establishments to the site. That, in turn, would support the city’s airport and golf course, both of which are located along Embarcadero. N Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@ On the cover: Design by Shannon Corey.


Palo Alto Weekly 02.10.2012 - section 1  

Section 1 of the February 10, 2012 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly

Palo Alto Weekly 02.10.2012 - section 1  

Section 1 of the February 10, 2012 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly