It’s been six years since the biggest sea change about corruption in Palo Alto vis a vis the developers, the billion dollar industry micromanaging every last parking spot and tree planting in Palo Alto and things have sure gotten better. Just kidding.
Grand Jury Report? Refresh my memory.
Pat Burt, a former mayor and the self-appointed pulling guard stupid body right for John Arrillaga, who built a stadium only a few years before, recently bloviated about something-something-something here, so I dug up my old reporting.
There’s a link to a 24-page document, which I think combines the staff report, the response drafted by Burt and Greg Schmid, and the GJR itself.
How will it look after six years water under the bridge or down the creek?
I could only get three paragraphs in:
This project got off to a bad start, and certainly off on the wrong foot. The initial action requested of Council on March 5, 2012 to allocate funding to allow for the City to actively shape some of the potential design features in response to initial suggestions by John Arrillaga did not establish enough detail for public review and commentary. The fact that Council members had received individual briefings by staff (permissible) on Mr. Arrillaga’s interest in a project of significant scale at that location compounded eventual community criticism for the project and process.
And although the purpose for that funding was to inform a potential future project, by the time the specifics of the project design parameters came forward (September 24, 2012) too much time had passed. More importantly, the scale of the potential project, particularly building heights, far overshadowed potential public benefits related to a new regional theater, significant parking, and improvements to the intermodal transit center and surrounding road network.
My guess is: same old crap brand new rap: Ventura, Fry’s Cubberley, Casti — uh-boy. Hang on to your tri-cornered Andew Hamilton it’s hop hop but I’m still a right-winger hat, it’s going to be a long night, or a short superficial election season and three more bobble heads with fake smiles and crocodile tears for We The People.
Exuse my post-modernisms and interjections and ejaculations:
This project got off to a bad start, and certainly off on the wrong foot. Ok, if you have to say it twice, maybe you should not say it at all. It was a cold and rainy cold night…A bad start and the wrong foot? Two different faux pas or you just couldn’t decide which page on your cliche book to start with. No, you got off on the wrong side of your procrustean ruptured water bed and ran out of quarters or took no quarters the machine did it’s magic fingers, typing with two fingers at a time.
So March 12 2012 is the date this started — and I will check against my records of there being a Monday meeting that Burt said something stupid, and then he confronted me at Printers Ink – which I call bullying and then awkwardly pat and his party of six get seated with Terry and I and our guest — a young activist — at a busy St. Patrick’s Day (irony) dinner downtown. The hostess said “since you guys all seem to be in local politics, is it okay if I seat you all together at a big table?” Which I thought was fine, we discussed with Mr. Beacom his nephew in pro baseball and Fulton Kuykendall Kaptain krazy his fraternity brother — guys can always talk sports. Burt self-seated at far west end of table away from the Weiss Party of Three – Burt Party of Six Borderline. Politics is like making corned beef or something.
So they say that something else happens by September. And again this is two and a half years before this staff report and now its six years later. We’ve learned so much.
Staff gave council briefings, permissable, they say. The grand jury stuff therefore is more in the likes of the secret meetings between the billionaire and leadership/council, serial and secret meetings. Got it. Paid staff is permitted to work directly for billionaires and not think about the needs of the people paying their salaries. Ok now. Moving on.
Something significant scale something something compounded eventual community criticism for the project and process.
Ok, I’m taking issue here. When they say “significant scale” they mean that a billionaire wakes up one morning, he’s 74 years old, his name is on several buildings on campus already, he rebuilt the football stadium, with fanfare if they dont’ call it the “The Argh!” –maybe if we go from “Cardinal” which is a type of math or maybe a color and not a bird to Pirates, which in fact students wanted once, Robber Barons, then having a stadium called “The Argh” would work. Assuming people call the Arrillagas “the Arghs” and not “the Llags” and people will get it that that is the noise that pirates make. And I also notice there is a trend throughout the Pac 10 or whatever to riff up the mascots a bit: The Beavs, not the Beavers, the Fighting Ducks not the Ducks. But I digress.
Anyhow the billionaire reads that in Abu Dabi and Dubois and Saudi Arabia — where he visited when he sold a billion dollars to the Saudis his land here – the land he and Rich Kelley’s dad Rich the seven foot basketball star from the 1970s to Argh the six foot guard from the 1950s – they obviously know each other – the dad Ry Kelley liked poetry and music I recall learning – Though I didn’t know he was either Rich Kelley’s dad or John Arrillagas former mentor. Anyhow, and this is good backstory, somewhere in there Arrillaga and Peery — two e’s — team up and gather some land and sell it to the Saudi’s and anyhow Argh or Big A but not Big E Elvin or Wes Unseld, rest in peace and remind me to look up if Wes Unseld had a nickname I have since forgetten. Anyways there are some big ass buildings in the Middle East these days so why not try to break the record here in Palo Alto or Stanford?
But then, and I may be getting ahead of myself, a staff member, nice gal, went to school with me, used to sing with The Tubes –White Punks on Dope, Talk to You Later, Completion Backward Principle, What Do You Want from Life — reads about people like me asking questions about the covenant between another developer — his son went to Dartmouth – -not sure his Stanford bona fides — promising that when the chain book store ever leaves 456 University will definitely go back to what the people wanted, thousands of them, signed a petition, a performing arts space or movie hall or both, the Varsity and she goes “hey Mr. Arrillaga, because there’s a lot of talk here about people who live here not wanting that much more office space office space office space and then also wanting, like, music, like my band the Tubes, what if we confuse them all or soothe the savage beasts the great unwashed and say this is not 200,000 stories of office or 200,000 feet of office space but A THEATRE wearing a stove top hat, like Abe Lincoln, I was thinkin’…”.
And staff goes, that’s great, we can spend $200,000 of some other Stanford bribe money on some consultants, like that guy on the ARB who is short of cash and we can make a big fancy report. And the press will report it just as we lay it out to them, like in The Front Page the old version not the feminsit one that is confusingly like Robinson Caruso, the press will play along, and we’ll tell everybody not to run for office this year so it won’t like be talked about during the campaign. And we’ve got a real team player, she’s actually Argh’s neighbor at one of his sites, she says, moving back down from County to local; and a real gamer, a kid, burt I mean but he’s ready to play along. and the old guy, the one honest guy, he’s about to have a heart attack or something, so this will fly thru.
And although the purpose for that funding was to inform a potential future project, by the time the specifics of the project design parameters came forward (September 24, 2012) too much time had passed.
I have nothing to add, that totally makes sense. Off to the wrong start, too much time passed. No secret meetings during those six months. No collusion. No peeing on faces of oligarchs in fancy hotels even when the Saudi lock out all eight floors (the four we see, the four no one knows about but oligarchs and the 300 ). And years before the Saudi’s start taking bonecutting saws to dissidents and bad or formerly in the know pundits. Got it.
A little back story: when Len Siegel a former mayor of Mountain View was at Stanford he was a radical, trying to stop the war. On March 18 of that year they literally had a Catholic priest perform an exorcism to remove the snakes i.e the developers from Palo Alto Square which at the time seemed like it would help The Military Industrial Complex more than it would become a place for art movies. But then even poor Len somehow lost his purchase.
But 27 University besides a pretty good place for ribs – and I recall they had Keena Turner of the 49ers do some ads — bust some ribs, get it? – but also David Gilhooly – -who wanted frog legs on the menu — was a historic building and if you look at the flag pole I think there are three separate war memorials there; and you’d have to un-dedicate park land at El Camino Park which is harder than putting a big fish tank under the artificial soccer fields.
Personally I counted 270 problems with the report, my copy of it – that is the staff report that either the people paid for but it was to please the billionaire, one guy or the one that citizens gave up seats on boards to collect $200,00o to help flesh out – and not the grand jury report. The errors went from grammatical to the idea that putting a theatre under a giant office tower made it a new “arts and transportation district” or something.
compounded eventual community criticism for the project and process.
I like the alliteration, the compounded and community and then then the project and processes, the writer is clearly minding his c’s and p’s. Yes, I agree, it was probably already an incredibly stupid idea just the billionaire wanting a 300 foot model of his dick before all the secret meetings and like. And I cannot recall if it actually looked from outer space like the Argh family crest – -a Big A not a Big U or a Big FU Unseld unsold and unchained and uncanny but I did joke that years from now people would be confused if El Palo Alto is a big tree, or Hoover Tower was The Big Tree or This Thing was The Big Tree Thingy. The Huge Erection – -and this was before the big Dick Building in SF. Or someone should look at whether this was just a big office building “for Stanford’ — was that part ever official? — or for VMWare – that was on the plans, rather than being up on Deer Creek they’d be vertical, in the tower — or did someone predict Salesforce would want to get in anything reeking of big dicks?
So it got off to a bad start, then on the wrong foot, then six months passed and there was no collusion or hookers peeing on billionaires in hotels and no carving up with saws journalists but then someone noticed that the same billionaire guy when he wasn’t fantasizing about seeing his erection from space he wanted to purchase from the people 7.7 acres of park land that he was using next to his castle in the hills, but someone noticed this because someone on staff (permissable) accidently put it on the agenda, of a secret meeting – -the meeting was secret but people could see the agenda.
And I still don’t know if he offered us $200 million dollars for the 7.7 acres because then we’d look the other way about the office tower OR he drank his own Gatorade and thought that his gift to the world (Stanford, an elite institution with $30 B endowment and $18 B in groundleases to manage) was so great that we’d sell him the land for, like $770, like what John Hopkins did to purchase the land from the Ohlone in 1769.
And how do we know that El Palo Alto near the creek, on Palo Alto Menlo Park border is the one Portola saw or did that one, closer to Middle Field and Embarcadero get cut down for a giant Bonfire of the Vanities?
So that’s the 2020 hindsight Monday Morning Quarterback version of the Grand Jury Report.
Related question: I just re-watched 49ers and Bengals, Montana to John Taylor (not the Bush economist) and I noticed John Paye on the sidelines wearing a white sweat shirt with what looks like three ping pong paddles on it — what kind of sweat shirt was that?
From the GJR:
The City first leased the Lee Gift Deed Property to the adjoining landowner in a document dated April 5, 1996, but it stated that the lease term began on March 17, 1996. The lease was for twelve months, to be used “for TENANT’S continued use of the PREMISES as a staging area for construction of a residence on the adjacent parcel owned by TENANT.” The lease rate was $1,100.00 per year plus a $1,500.00 security deposit.
Tenant is Arrillaga — did we give him back the $1,500 security deposit?
edit to add, a few minutes later, after walking the dog, feeding him, getting some soup, et cetera: the thing about staff initiating the part about adding the theatre after hearing the enthusiasm from The Varsity as a performing arts space, no one else has ever reported. (And similarly, I wrote that a Stanford grad student had written a paper about The Varsity and quoted Chop Keenan as saying that Borders had pre-paid him for reversion to theatre- she never returned my calls) . I gave the city – -Jim Keene and Tom Fehrenbach — a list of 20 names and venues in the music business, mostly regional – -of people qualifed to develop 456 Uni as a world-class 500 capacity venue, but in my opinion staff did not make a good faith effort to find a PPP because the landlord wasn’t into it. Yet, later both Berkeley and Menlo Park have movie houses converted to music venues, or approved plans for such. For whom does staff work?
And rather than actually producing an arts venue (or arts district) for downtown Palo Alto it had the secondary effect of dividing the arts community. I said: if you are building a venue, why not have arts groups compete to be the tenant? Also, I said things like “Theatreworks is NOT an incubator of Broadway shows or Tony-winners; in fact, the producers of “Memphis” quit Theatreworks to pursue their Broadway dreams.
Andandand or “Argh!” — I’m trying to circle back to Wes Unseld, but “significant parking“? Staff seems to be saying that a feature of the building and a public benefit, were it not derailed by corruption, was that it had signficant parking I guess implying that we are building a motherfucker of a building but it will have so much parking that it will solve the under-parking problems of fifty previous flawed projects, wtf? Maybe the whole is so deep it’s a joint venture with our Chinese sister city Smart City consort. Wes unsold, you bet. There’s going to be infinite underground parking and a pneumatic tube that connects to the arena of the Shandong Heroes of the Chinese basketball league, where all Palo Altans have a lifetime pass, and free parking.