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By Diana Diamond

My Palo Alto pet peeves – yours too?

Uploaded: Feb 2, 2019

In my high school yearbook, we were each asked to list our “pet peeves” and the “peak positive points” about our senior year. It was a fun experience that I occasionally carry on.

My pet peeves this past year were not complex problems, and some are easy to solve.

Parking alternatives for California Avenue drivers? -- The lack of parking in the California Avenue area is now acute because two parking lots have been torn up to accommodate a new Public Safety Building and a 656-stall parking garage (which will offer only 310 spaces for the business district). These projects have been planned for years, but since January, now that the lot sites have ben scraped and the existing parking lots gone, I see no signs, postings, or suggestions on where people should park. Why not? In September, the Public Works Departments said it was working on alternate plans but nothing has appeared. The garage is slated to be completed in spring of 2020, so unless some alternate parking solutions are found, we’ve got a long year ahead of us of frustrated drivers and businesses. Some merchants are already suffering, particularly restaurants. Solution: Public Works must find a solution right away – rent space from Caltrain or whatever entity that has parking lots or start a local California Avenue shuttle system.

City Council meeting starts – Council meetings don’t always start on time, particularly when preceded by labor negotiations, and sometimes a 5 pm-7 p.m. closed session doesn’t end until 7:30ish. In the meantime, the residents in the council chambers have to sit and wait – and wait. That’s either a blatant display of power by the council members (e.g., see what we’re talking about is more important than your waiting for us to start) OR simply impolite. Solution: Start council meetings on time, not a half hour later. And if there’s a closed meeting scheduled for an hour, end it in an hour!

The Embarcadero Road-El Camino traffic tie-ups – Since 2009, traffic at this intersection has been tied up because of uncoordinated traffic signals on both these two streets in the area around Town & Country and Palo Alto High School. The city has been working on it for a decade now, and while there have been a few improvements, the traffic is still clogged up. Sometimes one has to wait two or three traffic light changes to turn left onto Embarcadero. Or going west on Embarcadero, the high school on-demand pedestrian crossing switch still halts traffic, and a half-block later, those motorists then have to stop for the light at the shopping center, which usually has a line of 10 cars waiting for it to turn green. Solution: Get better coordination with Caltrans on the El Camino part of it and get it done now, not a decade from now. And have the high school students walk across the railroad overpass a half-block away, and eliminate the pedestrian crossing light altogether.

Ross Road disarray – Talk about ineptitude in handling a public project, the downsizing of Ross Road into a “safer” route for pedestrians and bikers resulted in public anger and confusion. Not only were Ross Road residents not thoroughly informed about the project details in advance, but also the result was a road full of sidewalk bulb-outs and street "furniture." Plus bikers and cars have to share the road in places, and installation of a lot of road “furniture” such as roundabouts, bigger bicycle paths and a multitude signs that only distracted, not guided, drivers. Some residents discovered their driveways had been accidentally blocked so those areas had to be repaired as soon as they were installed. A community meeting was held but several residents later told me, “The staff dismissed my concerns.” Solution: do a better informational job, get and use resident feedback (which is happening now on an Arastradero Road project), and when designing a road, don’t only think about making it safer for pedestrians and bikers, but also for motorists.

My “peak positive point” – Clearly this year I loved watching all the public interest in trying to make this city a better place to live. Resident attendance at city council meetings is amazing, and their knowledge about what is happening is considerable. Thank you, fellow residents, for all that you do to make Palo Alto a great place to live – which it is!

And your pet peeves and praises?