Letters to the editor: Palo Alto retail, Cubberley closed meeting

Here are the letters to the editor sent recently to the Palo Alto Weekly about Palo Alto retail and a recent City Council decision not to hold a closed meeting on Cubberley Community Center land.

Why shop in Palo Alto?


Regarding the article “City looks to revitalize flagging retail” in the Aug. 18, 2023 issue of the Palo Alto Weekly: It’s easy to blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the alteration of prior conditions, but Palo Alto’s retail deterioration has been continuous for decades.

Palo Alto’s combination of glacial and obstructive requirements, inadequate parking, and self-righteous regulation would be toxic to any city’s retail community.

Not so long ago, Palo Alto had three excellent music stores. four hardware stores, four bookstores, two fine men’s haberdashers and a custom tailor, two large toy stores, a fine cutlery shop, two stationers, two stamp and coin dealers, a hobby shop, two superb camera and photographic supply shops, two electronics supply outlets, and a comprehensive sporting goods store.

Most of the establishments on this list have disappeared. Where in Palo Alto can you buy a flute. a good camera or a baseball bat? A fine penknife? A multimeter? A model airplane or train kit?

Why would a man ever shop in Palo Alto.?

What about elegant stores that might attract women shoppers? Yes, there are a few boutiques selling women’s clothes. But any affluent woman with a modicum of fashion sense knows that 50 meters away is the glittering Stanford Shopping Center with upmarket establishments ready to cater to her every whim, from the latest style in workout clothes to a $50,000 emerald bracelet. And there are acres of parking where she doesn’t ever have to back her Mercedes into a tight street parking space.

Why would a woman shop in Palo Alto?

Given this negative environment, it’s a miracle that irreplaceable and unique owner-run gems like Bell’s Books, The Stanford Theatre, Gryphon Stringed Instruments, and La Bodeguita del Medio have survived at all.

There is no quick remedy for this problem. But if the City Council is serious and realistic, they have to recognize that it’s as much about psychology as about money.

They have to make it clear that retail ownership is respected and welcomed, that individuality is recognized and prized, and profit is not punished.

Otherwise they will not be able to answer the question: Why would anyone shop in Palo Alto today?

Dr. Morton Grosser

Lemon Street, Menlo Park

A bad decision to punt


The decision of the Palo Alto City Council to cancel at the last minute its closed session on Monday, Aug. 21, was equivalent to the San Francisco 49ers punting on first down.

The council could have used the 90 minutes set aside to discuss property negotiations regarding Cubberley under the legal guidance of City Attorney Molly Stump.

So much time has passed on Cubberley redevelopment, and this would have been a welcomed opportunity to move the ball forward.

Kudos to City Manager Ed Shikada for his efforts. However, the council caved.

At the end of the closed session, the council could have reported out of their closed session the transparency our residents had desired.

The council needs to do better!

Ken Horowitz

Homer Avenue, Palo Alto

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