The final neighborhood meeting this year for the city's General Plan update had 45 residents and business owners seriously discussing the future of the "Monta Loma, Farley and Rock Street area" Monday night.
Once every 20 years or so the city updates its General Plan, a constitution-like document that states the community's vision for city planning. Using input from Monday's meeting and others, new General Plan policies will be finalized in late 2010.
Among the issues most discussed was the future of Old Middlefield Way, a four-block area dominated by auto shops and other industrial uses. Several business owners showed up after hearing rumors that a developer was interested in buying up property along the street to turn it into housing.
"You're going to revamp the whole area, that's what it sounds like," said one auto shop employee. Others complained that Palo Alto and Mountain View had already redeveloped most areas where auto shops were once allowed to operate.
Chris Banen, the consultant hired by the city to facilitate the meetings, said all options were on the table for Middlefield Way, the most serious of which is denser mixed-use developments on certain corners with housing or office above retail stores.
When Banen asked for a show of hands, only two people said they would support housing on the street, which one woman pointed out is not very quiet as mechanics work on cars during the day. Most attendees supported new retail developments on key corners, and two-story buildings were more popular than three.
Given the current economy, Banen said, it's financially hard for a developer to only build two- to three-story developments; four to five stories was the "sweet spot" for maximizing land costs. But the auto shop owners were wary of "wedging open the door," as Banen put it, to major redevelopment of the entire street, which is currently protected by zoning regulations.
Business owners liked suggestions for "beautification" of the street, including street trees and a landscaped median.
Some residents said they would like to see industrial zoning relaxed for a few properties near Wright Avenue so that a karate or dance studio could move into the neighborhood for their kids to use.
A woman who said she rides her bike all over the city said the most dangerous area she faces is the Highway 101/San Antonio Road overpass, which she crosses to get to get to Ikea in East Palo Alto. With little room for bikes on the overpass, which is actually in Palo Alto, she says it's just a matter of time before she gets hit.
When asked how to improve pedestrian connections in the neighborhood, one woman said a pedestrian crossing over Central Expressway and the railroad tracks near Farley Street would help connect the north and south sides of the city between Rengstorff and Shoreline Boulevard.
Residents also liked the idea of a crosswalk with flashing lights on Middlefield Road near Thaddeus Park.
Meanwhile, one man said Mountain View's downtown train station would be the "obvious choice" among the handful of stops being considered for High Speed Rail on the Peninsula.