I am tired of complaining that it takes too long to get things started – and completed – by Palo Alto’s city staff. And, it turns out, so are many other residents in town, as evidenced by blogs responses on Palo Alto Online.
For example, Barbara Gross, a very civic-minded resident in this city, wrote on Palo Alto Online.com about delays, notably, “The train crossovers, the flooding caused by creeks, the roadway quality, the absurd traffic-calming designs – all are examples that have been before the Council & Staff for years! As a longtime resident, I believe you are failing our community.”
Another resident complained, “Sooooo, when's the city FINALLY going to restore all the libraries to their full schedules -- or do we have to listen to our ‘leaders’ who keep pleading poverty and threatening to cut emergency dispatchers??"
RW, under his (her?) online pen name, Consider Your Options, wrote, “The council didn’t have a plan for Cal Ave and this is the result. They allowed a mishmash of s tents in the street that block retailers. The whole area is unappealing, starting with the barriers. The city ignored the concerns of retailers like Mollie Stone. The city needs to do more than throw some games on the road. It needs a concerted effort to revitalize the street. The vacancy signs are everywhere. Obviously, what they are doing now is not working. At a bare minimum the city should be reviewing its decision.”
Another resident, upset with delays and using costly consultants to recommend signage on Cal Ave, said, “City Council is considering: hiring a consultant to look at different designs for the street and come back with a report next fall (2024) -- and how the street with be configured in the meantime. Does it take big bucks, 2 consultancies and our huge well-paid staff to put up a colorful banner saying ‘BUSINESS DISTRICT’ with arrows directing traffic to the streets parallel to Cal Ave??”
Recently, several residents in North Palo Alto say they have waited six years, and are still waiting, to have the city build a dog park in their area. They point out that South Palo Alto has three dog parks, and six years ago they were told by city officials that their area would get one, too. That has not happened yet.
My own list of inordinate delays to get projects completed include:
• Installing digital signs at the entrances to two public garages (at High and Bryant Avenues) to indicate the number and floor location of empty parking spaces in the garages. (Downtown San Jose had such counters in all their public garages 15 years ago.) When Liz Kniss was stepping off the council six years ago, she asked City Manager Ed Shikada about the delay and she told the council then, “We’re working on it?”
• A big delay (since 2009) in solving the routine daily traffic jam-up at the Embarcadero Road-El Camino intersection. Sometimes it takes four or five minutes to get through that crossing, in part because of poorly-timed traffic signals.
• A feasibility study regarding permanent closure to automobile traffic on California Avenue has been studied by a consulting firm for nearly a year and now, and council is asking that the study be extended until December 2024.
• And yes, that horrible delay in rebuilding the Pope-Chaucer bridge and protecting the San Francisquito Creek from spilling over onto residential yards along portions of that creek. The dramatic overflow occurred n 1998, and yet still nothing has been done to improve the situation. The Army Corps of Engineers were involved, then several consultants, and we’re still waiting, 25 years later, hoping the errant weather patterns will not produce another flood.
What can we do?
I can’t explain why it take staff so long to get projects done. But I can speculate reasons that may come into play contributing to this procrastination.
• The council never sets a deadline to staff as to a project completion date. Example: Utilities Department staffers have no deadline as to when the upgrade of transformer lines should be completed, yet until that happens, the city can’t handle customer increases in electricity usage. Yet private employees understand deadlines, and usually try hard to meet them.
• It may be part of the culture at city hall. City employee raises usually apply to all employees in a given category, and there are no merit increases. So, what is the incentive for a staffer to work faster?
• Oftentimes, when a reporter asks how a project is coming, the answer is: We’re studying it” or “We’re working on it.” I’ve received that same response for two or three years in a row on some projects.
• The city manager and some other department heads have talked about their heavy schedules and all the work they are handling. If that’s the case, then maybe the council or its designee needs to prioritize some of the work.
• I don’t know if this happens, but deadlines should also be assigned to consultants.
So, the public waits, and the result is that things, take a long time to get done in town.
Do any of you, blog readers, have any comments or ideas about these delays and how they could be remedied? I’d love to hear your thoughts!