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By Steve Levy

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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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Where I Spend and What I See Downtown

Uploaded: Sep 2, 2023

My wife and I live downtown (DTN) and my office is DTN. I walk DTN 2-3 times a day mostly to visit and spend money at businesses.

Here is what I see. On most afternoons and early evenings, I see lots of people walking and dining. I see lots of families (last night we saw five families with young children in the first block we walked back from dinner). I see lots of bikes and full parking lots in the evening. I see pretty full cafes in both the afternoon and evenings. I see people of all ages including young couples and older residents sometimes in walkers or wheelchairs. It feels again like a happening place though I do not know how many businesses are profitable given the rising costs of labor and inputs with recent inflation and labor shortages.

I do not go much into retail stores except as I outline below so do not know how much of the pedestrian traffic I see goes there.

DTN is our neighborhood and here is where we go and how we spend money DTN.
Our essential stores are Whole Foods and CVS followed by Ace Hardware.

We dine out a lot and pick up takeout. I go to cafes like Coupa and often have meetings there and at Café Venetia.

Most of the other visits are to personal services places—things you cannot get done or done as easily online. Both our dentists are DTN. We frequent Jacque’s sewing. I go to two banks DTN. We frequent spas and salons. I get my hair cut DTN. I buy eyeglasses and Apple products but most of my visits there are for services—getting my glasses straightened or questions about my IPhone and IPad. We get our watches and jewelry repaired DTN. We go to the Stanford Theater now that it is open again.

We buy most goods online or at T&C and Stanford Shopping Center. I wish local stores that sell clothes and furniture and the like DTN well but mostly they are not a need for us. I love to go to Letter Perfect but the fact is CVS has cards and now we can send e-cards. I love to browse in book stores but have not bought a book (except for grandkids) in years as I find e-books much more convenient.

We used to go to video stores 25 years ago. We used to buy camera equipment. A long time ago we used travel agents. All of that has passed to technology—photos on your phone, booking travel online, streaming.

I suspect families with children and pets who live DTN will have other places they visit DTN or wish were here like a Veterinary facility like we used to have or some places for kids.

If you live DTN let me know where you spend money and what you see.

Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 4, 2023 at 7:29 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

It is good for people to use their local shopping areas, not just for convenience but because unless they are used they will not be valuable as an amenity.

Those who live walking distance to downtown or Cal Ave can be considered to be in a walkable neighborhood. That is supposedly one of the aims of Palo Alto CC. Unfortunately, they think of walkable neighborhoods as being only in the north of Oregon areas, and Midtown and Charleston Center are not valued as amenities and that is not helpful.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 5, 2023 at 2:07 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ Bystander...you're spot on and Steve Levy is falling in with those who ignore and never ask those same questions about the shopping areas we have in South Palo Alto. We don't have the 5-6 blocks of business activity that University Avenue and California Avenue have to offer. We're treated as rural folks, and that in a sense is true (I live on what was formerly pastureland, and orchards proliferated in this area many years ago). But, up until just a few years ago I walked for my groceries, haircuts, car repair service, library service, exercise (YMCA), coffee, hardware needs, and restaurants. At one time I stretched it to include Costco, REI, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Best Buy. I'm 86 years old so I now drive to most of those places that are still in business in the area. Steve Levy is lucky to live in DTN. Years ago, when I wore a younger man's clothes, my wife and I would have dinner at a DTN restaurant and then cruise the drag (on foot on the sidewalks), for the 5-6 block long walk on University Avenue leading east, away from Alma Street. We enjoyed the crowds of people who were doing the same thing and we often saw our friends and neighbors there. Street musicians/entertainers, shops open late, and people of all ages, races, and ethnicities were there to enjoy summer evenings, some warm, but some requiring light sweaters.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 5, 2023 at 3:28 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Yes I am lucky to live in DTN.
But I wish midtown and other areas well. I am not arguing that midtown folks should shift their visits to DTN.
There is an active TS thread on midtown and I recommend reading Neilson Buchanan's post as to the difficulties midtown and most areas face with changing retail habits.

I favor adding more customers--through adding more housing, filling vacant places with uses such as personal services and activities and selective retail that business owners and property owners find economic. I am hopeful that over time some workers will return to the city more days a week even as I expect hybrid work arrangements to continue.

Wishes and blame will not bring more customers--actions that make sense in today's world could.

My blog is about DTN because that is where I live and work.

I am interested for other folks who live or work DTN to share how they use the businesses here and what they see as they walk around.

I continue to see busy restaurants and cafes and all sorts of people walking DTN.

I think there are 2 DTNs--the one used by people who live or work nearby and the one visited by people interested in an activity here like Stanford theater or the great variety of places to eat, drink and hang out--including lots of people who visit Stanford for sports, to see their kids, visit the hospital and general tourism.

Posted by Jenna Walsh, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 6, 2023 at 1:17 pm

Jenna Walsh is a registered user.

Mr. Levy...I ran your post by my elder 70-sonething Baby Boomer grandparents who grew up in Palo Alto and they mentioned that DTN no longer has the variety and allure it once had.

They cited stores like Dana Morgan & Son Music, Swains House of Music, Melody Lane on Ramona, Thoits Shoe Store, Roos Brothers, TC Christy, Phelps Terkel, Liddicoats, Eyerly's, Palo Alto Hardware, Dick Felt's Store for Boys, The Camera Shop, Werry Electric, Adolph's Bakery, Crescent Bakery, Howard's Children's Store, Tucker's Uniform Shop, Delmer Israel's Tennis and typewriter shop, and Varsity Theater among others.

Today DTN is a skeleton of what it once was and there is no going back to yesteryear.

Posted by Native to the BAY, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 7, 2023 at 6:05 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Aside from nothing and nowhere of substainence for teens to do. Skate Shop closed, the toy and sports store closed. There is no record store or music store the comic store closed. All they seem to be able to do is hang out at Pizza My Heart or MidTown shopping center with nowhere and nothing to do.

Posted by Native to the BAY, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 7, 2023 at 6:09 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

The two T&C and Stanford Shopping are for the wealthy resident clients. Nordstrom Coffee is not even a draw. Nice to know some have the income to shop at the ritzy malls. And teens who work and go to school still need positive outlets -- no live music venue appealing for them. All the teens I know go to other towns for rock climbing, better skate board options or even shows that are geared for thier age -- San Francisco, the East Bay, Menlo Park and Stanford.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 11, 2023 at 1:07 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

To Jenna and Native,

What is financially viable does change and I accept your comments about teens and your grandparents.

We miss Palo Alto Toy and Sport and Congdon and Chrome and a long time before that Good Earth.

Still, I see a much more vibrant DTN than in the 70s.

I hope council will help fill the vacant spaces with viable personal services, dining and activities that wills serve both local residents and attract others. And more housing will provide a new base of customers for all DTN businesses.

Posted by JAFO, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Sep 21, 2023 at 12:19 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

I read the news report regarding Steve in the bay area news.

Web Link

He works on research for private interests but has not disclosed whether they are used to write here. That information is seen on his website Web Link Specifically:

CCSCE recently completed a paper on Proposition 13 for the 2012 Index of Silicon Valley sponsored by Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

In 2011 CCSCE assisted the Think Long Committee of California develop data and polices related to workforce, education and infrastructure.

In 2009 CCSCE prepared a paper on economic and demographic trends for California Forward and earlier prepared a series of papers on state budget issues sponsored by the Irvine Foundation.

A commercial website, not a non profit. Which means this raises serious questions.

It makes me concerned because Stephen seems to be actively working for private interests.

The recent American Economic Association disclosure requirements would indicate that Stephen may need to disclose whether he has any interests before posting any opinions on this forum? The guidelines are found here Web Link

This was required due to the Documentary called Inside Job.

Please explain to us how you can claim your independence from conflict of interest?

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