Palo Alto’s gradual crawl towards establishing a brand new historical past museum on the Roth Constructing appears to have all of the traditional Metropolis Corridor hallmarks: lofty objectives, wishful ideas and years of debate with little to point out for it.
Since not less than 2000, Palo Alto’s elected leaders have touted the advantages of opening a museum to rejoice town’s historical past, each as a birthplace of Google, Fb and different Silicon Valley giants and as a bastion of environmental activism and academic excellence. Beneath the long-simmering plans, the museum would occupy the historic Roth Constructing at 300 Homer Ave., a former Palo Alto Medical Basis clinic that was in-built 1932 and that as we speak stands vacant and in disrepair.
The historical past of this effort has been one in every of indecision, missed deadlines, wavering instructions and the gradual dilapidation of the city-owned constructing. Although the Metropolis Council has been eyeing the positioning for years as the placement of the brand new historical past museum, council members have been reluctant to pay for the wanted enhancements. And although the nonprofit Palo Alto Museum stays town’s accomplice within the endeavor, council members have expressed frustration lately with the group’s fundraising efforts and have flirted with the concept of promoting the constructing or renting it out to a different group.
Now, regardless of town’s budgetary challenges, issues look like wanting up for the Palo Alto Museum. Subsequent week, the Metropolis Council will contemplate a memo from three members — Vice Mayor Pat Burt and council members Lydia Kou and Greer Stone — that urges town to signal a lease possibility settlement with Palo Alto Museum, a transfer that may each affirm town’s dedication to the mission and permit the nonprofit to boost cash towards the museum’s building.
Simply as critically, the council is making ready to approve on Monday the expenditure of greater than $4 million in impression charges — that are designated for bettering parks and neighborhood facilities — for the primary section of a long-awaited mission: the $10.5-million rehabilitation of the Roth Constructing. The section requires seismically rehabilitating the structurally poor 1932 constructing and make it doable for Palo Alto Museum to maneuver forward with the subsequent step: making the constructing’s inside appropriate for the brand new museum.
Wealthy Inexperienced, president of Palo Alto Museum, urged the council earlier this month to maneuver forward with this motion, which he mentioned would allow the museum to open its doorways to the general public in the summertime of 2022. He emphasised that a lot of the prices of really establishing the museum can be borne by the nonprofit, which has been making use of for grants and soliciting personal donations.
“We’re not asking town to fund the museum in any means — that can be funded beneath separate personal sponsorship and donation. We’re solely speaking in regards to the metropolis’s rehabilitation of its personal Roth Constructing,” Inexperienced informed the council on the June 7 assembly. “However nonetheless, we’ve got obtained combined alerts from previous metropolis councils which have challenged our fundraising capability. All we need to do is carry this historical past museum to the neighborhood.”
The brand new memo ought to give Inexperienced and different mission supporters causes for optimism. Mayor Tom DuBois has publicly supported the institution of the historical past museum and his place — coupled with urgings from the memo’s three signatories — all however ensures that the mission will get assist from the council majority. It’s, nevertheless, anticipated to be the slimmest majority, with three of the seven council members lately signaling that they might somewhat not spend cash on the Roth Constructing right now.
The brand new memo from Burt, Kou and Stone means that it’s crucial to maneuver the mission ahead as quickly as doable.
“This mission wants to maneuver ahead rapidly to protect this susceptible historic constructing, reap the benefits of the prevailing allow, and transfer ahead this building season to keep away from winter rains,” the memo states.
The place represents a pointy break from the latest previous. In December 2020, council members chafed on the concept of spending important funding on the Roth Constructing within the close to future. Through the council’s Dec. 14 assembly, then-Mayor Adrian Wonderful opposed the concept of spending impression charges on the rehabilitation mission, calling the proposed motion an finish run across the monetary course of. Former council member Liz Kniss, who previously urged her colleagues to discover rezoning and presumably renting out the Homer Avenue property, bemoaned the shortage of a transparent avenue towards the institution of the museum. Council member Alison Cormack mentioned it might be irresponsible for town to not contemplate promoting the constructing.
The November election, which noticed Burt and Stone exchange Wonderful and Kniss, seems to have upended the political dynamic. Whereas three council members — Cormack, Eric Filseth, Greg Tanaka — stay reluctant to spend cash on rehabilitating the Roth Constructing, the opposite 4 members are poised to maneuver the mission forward.
The brand new memo from Burt, Kou and Stone echoes the argument lengthy made by Palo Alto Museum leaders: as a result of the Roth Constructing is a city-owned asset, it must be town’s accountability to not less than repair up the arduous shell of the constructing in order that the museum might then transfer forward with enhancements to the constructing’s inside.
As well as, town is scheduled to obtain a number of important neighborhood property and advantages which might be exterior of museum-based features or obligations together with: publicly accessible park restrooms, a restaurant accessible to the park, neighborhood assembly areas and sources for youth analysis and training, states the memo, citing the proposed options of the brand new museum.
If the council strikes forward with the advice of its Finance Committee, town would allocate $2 million to the Roth Constructing mission from its Stanford College Medical Heart improvement settlement. It could additionally use $350,000 in park impression charges to enhance the constructing, which is subsequent to Heritage Park and which might have a toilet that’s accessible to park customers. Town can also be wanting to make use of about $1.65 million in impression charges which might be designated neighborhood facilities, cash that can seemingly be shifted from deliberate enhancements to Rinconada Park.
In its June 7 price range dialogue, which served as a probable preview for subsequent week’s price range adoption, the council majority signaled that it desires to see the Roth Constructing work start sooner somewhat than later. DuBois mentioned he believes impression charges and Stanford funds are applicable funding sources for the mission shortly earlier than the council voted 4-3 to assist the funding plan.
Cormack, Filseth and Tanaka all dissented, with Cormack saying she is hesitant to switch charges from different neighborhood initiatives to the Roth Constructing rehabilitation. Tanaka questioned the necessity to transfer forward with the historical past museum at this second.
“Do we have to do it once we’re within the second yr of a price range disaster?” Tanaka requested. “I do not know if it is probably the most crucial factor we should always take into consideration.”