What role did super-model play in Palo Alto council approval of flawed redevelopment plan, 1050 Page Mill?


Supermodel Kate Upton as seen in famous Super Bowl ad for video game


You heard of, if you are at all literary or cultured, “the face that launched a thousand ships”*, but what about the super-model goddess archetype that may or may not explain Palo Alto subsidizing developers to the tune of thousands of dollars worth of fudging in Monday’s council meeting?


Council voted 7-1 to approve a deal that would re-build an office building at 1050 Page Mill Road in the former Stanford Industrial Park despite numerous residentialist objections to the deal for matters such as toxics and traffic gridlock. The land is owned by Stanford, but ground-leased to Peter Pau’s Sand Hill Properties, who have a deal with Machine Zone, a video game unicorn whose main source of income is a flashy, violent and manipulative cash cow video game called “Game of War”.

Forbes reporting says that the game was generating $1M per day and $600 M per year, fueled by  racy Super Bowl ad featuring supermodel Kate Upton. The ad campaign cost an estimated $40 million. Upton also appears in the game as a Vanna White-type character that seduces addicts into tapping their credit card for “patches” to the otherwise free game.


The building previously housed 200 engineers from Beckman (they make centrifuges and devices, founded here in 1954 but moved to Fullerton in 2009) and Facebook for two years, according to the Weekly. With under-grounded parking (Alison Koo of Pau’s office insists that the garage is above but not in the toxic plume) the facility will likely host more than 1,000 gamers and their ilk. Overall, Stanford Research Park comprises 700 acres, hosts 150 companies and 20,000 workers and recently has seen the selling of leaseholds for in excess of $5 million per acre. Pau bought the ground lease on this site in 2013 for $130 M, according to the Business Journal sources. Pau’s website actually lists four active projects within the Stanford micro-market, although they are best known here for Edgewood Plaza, where the City is, in contrast, threatening to fine them for not having a supermarket as part of the mixed-use deal.


SHP’s Allison Koo

As a former ad agency intern and junior copywriter, whose first industry task was to analyze children’s ads for their latent messages (and this shortly after getting an A+ from Dartmouth’s Blanche Gelfant for a thesis tracing the use of the word “crack” in in Henry Roth’s “Call it Sleep”) I wonder if the Kate Upton ad even subconsciously and subtly explains how Greg Scharff, Marc Berman and Pat Burt could overlook all the problems with this deal.

Meanwhile the Palo Alto Weekly deleted (after three minutes) my first take on this:

How many of them voted for this cuz they thought they would get to meet Kate Upton?


Cheeky yes, but why censored? How now, BJ Bill Johnson?

I think someone should break down in strict Keynsian terms the pros and cons from Palo Alto’s perspective what it means that Stanford Cleavage Park is so suck sex full?

Leland and Jane Stanford disapproved of drinking beer — why would they approve the tenancy of video game pimps?

The semiotics are compelling. When Stanford’s Tiffany Griego stands up and says “we are not the applicant here” they are still lending their imprimatur and influence to the case.

I’m not suggesting we condemn the whole damn 700 acres — I’m just saying let’s regulate not salivate.


I mean, yeah I could ask or text each of these guys if they were thinking of Kate Upton with their vote and log their various responses. But yes I think the above screen-capture of Miss Kate as a developer asset should be part of the record that explains this impressive new proposed erection. Or as George Carlin and not (*) Christopher Marlowe might say our thrust is to prick the bubble of the developers and restore our Democracy as one-person, one-vote and not two-tittie one-unicorn or to whatever this has de-evolved.

Tom Dubois (an ally) recused himself from this vote (because his wife works at Stanford), but I’m curious what he thinks about Machine Zone since he is a consultant in the video game field. Meanwhile, shouldn’t Greg Scharff also have recused since he owns an office building nearby off California Avenue?

Activist and Palo Alto citizen Jeff Levinsky rightly compared this deal to the infamous and Grand Jury reported 27 University case wherein City staff and council (including the aforementioned Burt and Scharff) met secretly with developers and Stanford interests months before discussing it from the dias (and spending $250 K in taxpayers money to fluff it out).  The Research Park, the hospital, the shopping center are all unique cases wherein Stanford the rhinoceros and Palo Alto the oxpecker have a joint interest, but I think we tend to get the dubious end of the deal.

I’m just rhapsodizing here but given the context it is fair to ask if there is was anything more overt than the power of the media and sleazy sexploitation to explain council’s action here, and their apparent dereliction in duty and abandonment of local interests.

edit to add: mainly I admit to being more pedantic than erudite and so as to ping my former professor James Shapiro, here is Christopher Marlowe (1604) on Faust and Helen of Troy:

“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,And burnt the topless towers of Ilium–Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.–”[kisses her]”Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!–Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips, And all is dross that is not Helena.”



COME PLAY WITH ME: Since 2007, she has successfully negotiated and executed more than 40 transactions, yielding more than a half-billion dollars in income to Stanford University. She has executed leases covering more than 5,000,000 square feet of office and R&D space. (SVBJ, 2015) — we should figure out how many of these involved dubious council rulings.

Griego narrates this helpful but less titilating backgrounder:

3. Here is a lift from Tiffany Griego’s LinkedIn profile: Lead strategic planning, development and management of the world-renowned Stanford Research Park, Stanford’s preeminent real estate asset and Silicon Valley’s single largest real estate complex. This 700-acre, $7 Billion submarket is comprised of 10.3 Million square feet of improved R&D and office buildings, with Stanford’s direct holdings equaling $2 Billion AUM. Note that their declared assets under management roughly speaking is ten times Palo Alto’s overall annual budget ($200 M). Stanford recently lobbied to be excluded from Palo Alto’s office cap, which itself is a huge cave-in from the 1998-2010 downtown cap and moratorium.

4. Robert Kolker of Bloomsberg profiles Gabriel Leydon of Machine Zone.

5. (a month later) VentureBeat reports that MachineZone spent $62 million in media on the Kate Upton video (in various edits) and $90 overall, in an industry that spent $630 on advertising, a huge jump over the previous year.

6. Super Duper

Regarding above comment, activists and engaged citizens Bill Ross, Doria Summa, Fred Balin and Jeff Levinsky claim that staff and council ruled generously toward allowing 31,000 square feet of new building beyond normal so when I directly above reference Christopher Marlowe and Helen of Troy (and Faust), a more accurate phrasing would be “thousands of thousands of dollars worth of fudging” which is to say we gave away 31 millions in subsidy to Stanford/Pau/Leydon, at least.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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1 Response to What role did super-model play in Palo Alto council approval of flawed redevelopment plan, 1050 Page Mill?

  1. rebecalyn says:

    We definitely should keep track of how many new office space projects the City Council keeps approving, plus how many new employees will be using our city services, and how much revenue those jobs will generate for their employers.

    Then we could compute what the employers WOULD pay if these employers paid payroll tax like every other well-funded employer pays in every other similar city in our country;
    And we can compute how much these employers would pay in business income taxes if these employers paid taxes on their revenues like well-funded employers do in every other similar city in our country.

    Then we should add up those two numbers, and send a bill to our city council members directly, since their decision to pull the business tax from our November ballot is the reason that our city has to continue to lobby for more parcel taxes for residents while multi-billion dollar companies — even companies like HP that created the superfund sites whose plumes WILL be impacting that garage and the office space — do not pay a dime for the many ways they continue to cause so much harm and expense to our city.

    How could any of them justify approving yet another office space project? Do any of them really not realize that all these projects do is pollute our environment, clog our roads, and use our city services, all paid for by residents? Each one of these projects that they approve costs the community countless dollars yet brings us nothing but pollution, traffic, construction noise, and more accidents where construction trucks run over children on bikes.

    My proposal is immediately convert City Council jobs to full time positions, and disallow any city council member from working in any capacity for any company doing business in Palo Alto. There can be no explanation for the city council continuing to bend the rules to favor employers at the expense of residents’ interests other than that they must have something to gain.

    In the case of Mayor Adrian Fine, that conflict of interest is clear. He works for an auto-company startup on the formerly-Barron-Park Superfund site, and his decision to pull the business tax from the November ballot directly served the interests of his employer. Meanwhile, unceasing approval for new office building projects also serve his employer’s interests given that a large number of those new office buildings are located in the direct proximity of his employer’s offices, so potentially could serve as spill-over office space for his own employer, or at very least will help keep the costs of his company’s rent down by ensuring sufficient supply of additional office space when needed.

    Should Adrian Fine be disclosing that Mayoral policy decisions directly impact and improve the financial bottom line for his employer? And should Adrian, whose job in part is to market his employer to potential new hires in his Palo Alto office, disclose to the new recruits that their jobs will be located on one of the EPA’s highest priority Superfund sites? And will Adrian clarify, if he does disclose this, that the water those new employees will be drinking may be poisoned with environmental toxins have been linked to cancer, brain tumors, birth defects, and a variety of other fatal health problems?

    Does Adrian – who describes himself as an environmental advocate yet who works for an auto industry company – himself know that he works on a Superfund site?

    There are countless reasons that people who are elected to represent the needs of their community should not be able to work at the same time for the very companies that exploit the community. It can create confusion about for whom the elected official actually works.

    In the case of Adrian Fine, there certainly seems to be confusion about for whom exactly the Palo Alto Mayor works except in one essential regard: we can be fairly confident that he does not work for the people who elected him.

    – Rebecca Eisenberg

    Ed- This is news to me. What you call “start-up” is according to social media a wholly owned subsidiary of a $26b company called Ford. It says 163 employee here — why would Ford hire as director of marketing a guy with not a Harvard or Stanford MBA but a masters in planning from Penn by way of University of Washington? It says that Ford is pumping a billion dollars into self-driving cars. And they have permits from Cal DMW to use our roads. I will have to start tracking this category. Michael Alcheck said something once from the dias that he thought the cars in Minority Report were cool.

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