I posted this on the Palo Alto Weekly’s website, below Genady Sheyner’s coverage of the October 4, 2011 Historic Resources Board meeting, which included a presentation of a concept (but, according to Board Member Roger Kohler, significantly, NOT an actual application — it was like a trial balloon, perhaps????) regarding 456 University. Kohler told me by phone the next day that the landlord would have to return to the Board with actual plans, and that it was still possible that Council would take up the matter. Although, conversely, city staff member Stephen Turner told me the opposite, that it would not end up before Council.
I am focusing on getting Council traction with this, plus following up with concert industry representatives to check my math on just how well this might work. So far I would say that any progress in that realm has been mitigated by the dissonance on staff about whether this is doable or should they just look hard enough to appease the citizens. Jason Olaine of Yoshi’s (fourth-generation Palo Altan, lives in SF) suggested Uptown Theatre of Napa as possible comparison; also New York Times had blurbs about Michigan Theatre and The Ark, both of Ann Arbor.
And the question has been raised variously in this context about whether the real estate interests have too much of a hold on staff, what they do and how they do it. Meanwhile. for currency sake I am attending the debate on Measure D and E, which I so far have opposed.
I would say one, keep arguing for, asking for, speaking up about advocating something cultural and community-focused — and a conforming historic use — for 456 University Avenue, the historic and beloved Varsity Theatre — until the day that the next generation of 100 carpet-bagging tech geeks actually over-pay their delusional and venture-backed way in, and then, two, continue articulating your disappointment with the narrow-mindedness and cowardice of leadership here– on commission, board and council levels — such that it impacts the 2012 Council election, unseating for example the weakest two pro-developer incumbents and we start to have a swing back towards actual representation — one voter, one vote, not one-million-dollars, one vote, one billion dollars, one thousand votes — and some more residentialists on council.
That Bower for example would resort to demagoguery and jingoism rather than acknowledge our concerns, is pretty typical of the official debate — if that’s not to kind a word — so far. Also, Bernstein cut off Winter Dellenbach after three minutes, rather than the typical five — how is that Democratic? There were a total of four speakers pro-culture or conforming use: she, I, Tim Gray and Herb Burock. They don’t have twenty minutes to hear the people out, they only have twelve? (The developer had about an hour, including staff time).
That being said I am going to try to focus on the benefits of the conforming use — keep the theatre as a theatre — and not bash or complain about the lack of leadership. I’ve heard more often, however, “we are afraid of being sued” and “property rights is more important that the First Amendment and expression and the arts” — which sounds more like Tsarist Russia than Sam Adams and The U.S., than encouragement from our so-called leaders.
On the flip-side and sunny side, Nancy Shepherd introduced me to Chop Keenan; I offered to turn my research over to him if that will help him see the light. We actually shared a moment, regarding our favorite tribe of Indians, so who knows. It definitely does not work, history has shown, to try to alienate him. Also, I met Chip Conley of Joie De Vivre, touring Our Fair City with people from Ideo and he said, off the cuff, that the Varsity Theatre would help his new hotel here, at Casa Olga site, on Hamilton, more than would more office space.
And I took it as a good omen that blink 182, who I had at Cubberley for “Earth Day Rock and Bike — $6 all ages, two for one if you ride your bike ” in April, 1999, were at Shoreline Wednesday. I think with a little luck we will see some rock stars show for this. People I’ve tried to reach so far include Matt Nathanson, Josh Ritter, Brett Dennen and Cake, Chris Isaak. They all have ties to Palo Alto. (also wrote to Henry Rollins via the reply box on his site, plus his publicist Tresa Redburn, who I met once in Austin).
I think Gen did a good job covering above, thanks. I’m going to send my actual speech, it was written and rehearsed, to Council as part of the official record, or you can check it at Media Center site, I think.
I am hopeful that Kohler and Bunnenberg will continue to be assertive here, on behalf of the people. They pointed out that this is being rushed through.
I at first, until Gen set me straight, thought Mr. Bower was quoting his favorite Neil Diamond song not challenging my loyalty or whatever. In reply I will reference Thoreau on Civil Disobedience, and his statements about keeping up the standards of the Founding Fathers, and quote Sam Adams: There is nothing more at this meeting to further our country!!!
(also reminds me that I am meaning to bone up on Autobiography of Henry Adams, especially about “The Dynamo and The Virgin” — Henry is a cousin of Sam, who was a cousin of John Adams, etc.)