My husband and I recently returned from a six-month trip to find that the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary to the Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford had, once again, shot itself in the foot…and this time it may be fatal. Not only have they evicted the only tenant who had ever been a consistent draw to the facility (the Palo Alto Auxiliary that ran the Allied Arts Restaurant), but they planned on replacing them with a version of the JZ Cool restaurant. Now Jesse Cool, a “for profit” restaurant owner, is not opening a restaurant at Allied Arts, claiming a “misunderstanding” about the lease terms. Duhhhh. How many customers did she expect to have with only breakfast and lunch service, no bar, no wine, no beer, severe limitations on operating hours, and no desirable retail neighbors to encourage walk-in business. My friends tell me she probably hoped to transfer a liquor license from another location to the Allied Arts restaurant. Woodside-Atherton’s leadership is naïve enough to believe that they could slip that little deception past the city and the neighbors. I don't think so, and apparently they didn’t.
Now Allied Arts has no restaurant, and no likelihood of attracting one with the operational limitations imposed by the property’s use permit. No restaurant equals no foot traffic on the property, and eventually no retail tenants. Then comes the fire sale of the property for what, apartments?….a senior center?….low-cost housing?….who knows.
The Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary’s president, Jean Coblentz, has been fixated on turning the Allied Arts property into a destination meeting and conference center. Hello!!!! In a Menlo Park residential neighborhood? With Stanford University and many local hotels offering similar services supported by experienced staff and sophisticated technology? In a rose garden setting? With limited seating capacity? Seriously, Jean, who will come? Why? You’ve been pursuing this strategy for more than a year with no success. What’s changed? Certainly not a new restaurant, to replace the legendary Allied Arts volunteer-staffed facility, with more than 75 years of service and customers who came even when there were few retail stores to browse.
It’s not hard to figure out who is killing the Allied Arts facility. President Jean Coblenz’s unfortunate combination of arrogance and ignorance will be fatal for Allied Arts and the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary. Soon there will only be the Tally Ho, and the success of that event has steadily diminished in recent years.
There might have been some hope if Victoria Applegate, Vice President and Director of Auxiliary Relations, Packard Children’s Hospital, had done her job. Applegate’s responsibilities, among other things, include assuring that the various auxiliaries which support Children’s Hospital work cooperatively, and when conflicts arise, she should be expected to keep both sides informed and mediate any differences. Ms. Applegate did none of these things in regard to the eviction of the Palo Alto Auxiliary’s restaurant. When asked why not, friends from the Palo Alto group indicated her response was, “Because you didn’t ask me for my help.” Did this lack of effort on her part have anything to do with her prior relationship with the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary? Was favoritism involved? Or did she simply not know that the eviction was planned? In either case, she was either ignorant or intentionally did not warn Palo Alto of the impending change, thus denying them the opportunity to prepare for other activity. Did the fact that Palo Alto had to threaten Woodside-Atherton with a lawsuit to recover thousands of dollars due them under the terms of their lease affect either Coblentz’s or Applegate’s actions? Duhhhh……!
Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to many concerned and disillusioned friends from both the Woodside-Atherton and Palo Alto Auxiliaries, and almost all of them feel that Coblentz and Applegate were the ones whose actions or inaction resulted in the current disaster at Allied Arts. The big loser is the hospital and the children who benefited from the volunteer-staffed restaurant’s donations. I’m very glad I went inactive at Woodside-Atherton many years ago. It’s sad to watch the slow decline of such a wonderful facility as the Allied Arts Guild. It’s even sadder to know that it could have been avoided, but for the actions or inaction of two people. It’s time we put names to those responsible for the calamity at Allied Arts, and stop referring to them indirectly by such euphemisms as “the leadership.”
If you think the concerns noted above are new and unrecognized by others, you’re wrong. Look at the many entries regarding Allied Arts in the Town Square Forum of The Almanac. I think the members of the various auxiliaries, Children’s Hospital, and the Menlo Park community are long overdue for an accounting of what has taken place at the Allied Arts complex. Tell us, Ms. Coblentz and Ms. Applegate…..why in the world have you destroyed the Allied Arts we loved so well?