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By Diana Diamond

The irony of it all: Dropped into a deep dark hole at city hall

Uploaded: Jun 16, 2020

How ironic! The city of Palo Alto has decided to sign a new lease with the Palo Alto school district to save $2.7 million, which will reduce the space the city and nonprofits use at Cubberley Community Center

That reduced use of the facility will help he city slightly reduce a nearly $40 million city budget deficit, because the city will save $2.7 million by turning over less to the district.

Bur in April the city council decided to keep all city employees on full-time to the end of June at a cost of $5 million, because it was the kind thing to do, although since city hall was closed, there was little work for them to do.

Score: Staff wins, public loses.

Debate about what to do to improve the dilapidated classroom buildings at Cubberley have been going on for seven years – with no action taken. I can remember board members from Heartfit for Life going to monthly city meetings but their report back: “no progress.” At one point there were suggestions to turn Cubberley into a health center for the community, particularly the aging – a great idea. Consultants were hired, more community meetings were held, and then nothing happened. So new consultants were hired. These consultants cost thousands, if not more.

The latest proposal from a consultant, who had lots of community input for this 35-acre site at 4000 Middlefield Road, was for a “shared village” operated by the city and the district, which included adding new space for nonprofits, a pool and other amenities.

Whoosh! All that work, time and money disappeared on Monday night when Palo Alto’s City Council decided 6-1 to forego all those plans for Cubberley to save the $2.7 million. What a loss for city residents. Only Councilmember Greg Tanaka suggested the city should take money out of future capital improvement projects to use it on Cubberley – an idea that needs to be pursued.

All this is also ironic because if decisions were made on Cubberley five years ago, we would have by now a wonderful new facility in this community. Instead we deliberated it to death, only to turn around and hire more consultants.

I am delighted that the city, which owns seven of the 35 acres, has found room for some of the nonprofits now occupying Cubberley, as has the school district.

Which brings me to other delays in this city. About 10 years ago the council approved having electronic digital signs that were going to be posted on public garages in the city to let motorists know how many vacant spaces there were and to signal which floors they were on. Great idea. San Jose had these 18 years ago. Nothing has happened yet.

It’s as if projects go into a deep dark hole at city hall and hibernate there for years before one or two might poke their heads up and become a reality.

Take the intersection at Embarcadero Road and El Camino, which is routinely tied up with traffic and long delays because of an inept traffic light system. I’ve been ranting about that for 10 years. At that time, then Traffic Manager Jaime Rodriguez was working on it but there was no progress. He left to form his own company, which was awarded a city contract to work on it, but 12 years later still nothing has happened.

Discussions about what to do about Caltrain crossings in town are now into a fifth year of debate, with nary a shovel in hand to begin work on it.

Palo Alto is the Gateway to Silicon Valley! How ironic, because if any company in this valley acted with such lengthy delays and kept on hiring more and more consultants, no new businesses would have started.