By Steve Levy
E-mail Steve Levy
About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ... (More)
About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved downtown in 2006 and enjoy being able to walk to activities. I do not drive and being downtown where I work and close to the CalTrain station and downtown amenities makes my life more independent. I have worked all my life as an economist focusing on the California economy. My work centers around two main activities. The first is helping regional planning agencies such as ABAG understand their long-term growth outlook. I do this for several regional planning agencies in northern, southern and central coast California. My other main activity is studying workforce trends and policy implications both as a professional and as a volunteer member of the NOVA (Silicon Valley) and state workforce boards. The title of the blog is Invest and Innovate and that is what I believe is the imperative for our local area, region, state and nation. That includes investing in people, in infrastructure and in making our communities great places to live and work. I served on the recent Palo Alto Infrastructure Commission. I also believe that our local and state economy benefits from being a welcoming community, which mostly we are a leader in, for people of all religions, sexual preferences and places of birth. (Hide)
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Neighborhood Retail, Customers and Parking
Uploaded: Nov 29, 2015
The recently announced closing of two retail outlets on California Avenue brought an outpouring of sadness from former patrons and residents who wish for more neighborhood shopping choices.
There are some well-known retail trends that underscore the difficulties facing small neighborhood oriented retail outlets. One is the rapid growth of online shopping for many items including stationery, which was one of the stores announcing their Cal Ave closing. The online shopping surge means that a smaller share of our spending is going to store-based sales.
And recent statewide taxable sales data underscores that the sales areas that are still growing are mostly not local neighborhood serving establishments. Recent sales growth show
Overall sales up 5.6%
New cars up 7.1%
Restaurants up 9.4%
Furniture up 9.5%
Bookstores down 13.3%
Office supplies down 0.3%
General merchandise up 3.0%
Supermarkets up 3.3%
Clothing stores up 8.8%
If you put the growing online shopping together with the data above, you can see the long-term challenge for neighborhood serving retail.
My sense is for this kind of retail to sustain in Palo Alto, there needs to be strong growth in the nearby customer base. While the high PA rents will always be a problem they do not explain stores that have a declining number of customers.
So two popular online wishes are in conflict—more retail but almost no growth in nearby customers, i.e, jobs and housing. That math does not work.
So if residents want more retail but slower office growth, the only way that happens is with a large increase in nearby housing. Even then the future for neighborhood retail, as opposed to visitor retail, will be tough.
But more housing near downtown and Cal Ave definitely will be a plus for sustaining neighborhood serving retail.
I also think metered parking, perhaps $1 an hour, will help. If I think of the growing vitality of downtown Redwood City and Burlingame, both thrive with metered parking. For Cal Ave, another plus would be a shuttle from the Research Park so employees could eat and shop on Cal Ave without the parking hassle.
Without more customers and rational parking/shuttle policies the chances for neighborhood serving retail to survive downtown or around Cal Ave are mostly wishful thinking.
What is it worth to you?
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