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.
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?
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.
HER LIPS SUCK FORTH MY SOUL
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.”
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.