Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 2, 2012

Plan to revitalize Edgewood Plaza moves ahead

Palo Alto's planning commission approves proposal to rehabilitate three stores, build 10 homes at Eichler shopping center

by Gennady Sheyner

A shopping plaza anchored by The Fresh Market grocery store and featuring a small park could soon take shape at Palo Alto's Edgewood Plaza after the city's planning commissioners agreed Wednesday night to approve a zone change that would enable the project.

The proposal to redevelop Edgewood Plaza, the only local shopping plaza to be developed by iconic home-builder Joseph Eichler, has gone through several iterations throughout the years-long approval process. Developer John Tze of Sand Hill Property Company had previously proposed building 24 homes on the plaza, a plan that was widely panned by residents in the adjacent neighborhoods.

The new proposal, for which the Planning and Transportation Commission approved a zone change by a 6-0 vote (Greg Tanaka was absent), includes 10 homes and renovations to the three original retail buildings on the plaza, which is bounded by Embarcadero Road, Channing Avenue and West Bayshore Road.

The most critical component of the new plaza will be a 20,000-square-foot grocery store that would occupy the building once occupied by Albertsons (formerly Lucky Supermarket). Albertsons left Edgewood in 2006.

"This is a neighborhood center anchored by a grocery store, and it's intended to be that way going forward," Tze told the commission Wednesday.

As the Weekly first reported earlier this month, the grocery store The Fresh Market has agreed to move into the plaza and bring to Palo Alto its first store west of the Mississippi. Tze said Wednesday that The Fresh Market's move into Edgewood is part of a broader plan to build six stores in California. Executives from The Fresh Market visited the plaza last year during "Edgewood Eats," a resident-organized mobile-food event, he said.

Tze said the chain's decision to build other stores in California convinced him that The Fresh Market would operate in the plaza for a long time.

"We don't want the risk of someone just opening and three years later saying they can't do it, shutting down and moving back east of the Mississippi," Tze said.

The project would also include a small park with benches and trees a place intended to encourage community gatherings, he said. The Eichler buildings would be preserved and rehabilitated, and the plaza would include a display honoring the developer, whose distinctive style emphasizes open space, glass doors and post-and-beam construction.

In addition to rezoning the site for a "planned community," the commission voted to approve the environmental analysis for Edgewood Plaza by a 4-2 vote, with Vice Chair Susan Fineberg and Commissioner Arthur Keller dissenting. Commissioners said they were concerned about the recent changes in the final Environmental Impact Report, which had initially stated that the project would have a significant impact but was later revised to say the impact would be minimal. The city's two historical consultants disagreed on the issue.

In approving the project, commissioners praised Tze's patience and willingness to work with residents on refining the plans. Commissioner Samir Tuma thanked Tze and the project's critics for making the revisions necessary to make the revitalization of Edgewood Plaza possible.

"I know there are a lot of people, particularly in that immediate surrounding community, who are looking forward to having an operating shopping center one with a grocery store and other amenities that go with it," Tuma said.

Commissioner Mark Michael said the redeveloped plaza would be a "significant enhancement" to the community. Commissioner Arthur Keller agreed.

"In this particular case we're getting a real shopping center," Keller said. "We're getting a reasonable size grocery store 20,000 square feet and we're getting two other shopping-center buildings, which will basically create a full complement of stores that it will be reasonable to consider a neighborhood center."

Residents who spoke at the Wednesday hearing also gave the project high marks, though some said they were worried about its traffic impacts and the dangerous road conditions on West Bayshore Road.

Brenda Erwin, who lives nearby, said she has seen many pedestrians and bicyclists barely avoid getting hit by cars at West Bayshore, a busy road that runs adjacent to U.S. Highway 101. Planning Director Curtis Williams said the city will consider means beyond this project to address the traffic problems.

"West Bayshore has been there and has been a fast roadway when this was a shopping center, and we're going to try to work to create better access there, but it's not this project's impact that's causing that," Williams said. "Within the bounds of this project, we should do what we can do to provide a safe environment, but we cannot try to address West Bayshore's problems just through this project."

Martin Yonke, who lives near the plaza and whose group challenged the developer's earlier plan, was one of several speakers to praise the project at Wednesday's hearing.

"We look forward to having a revitalized shopping center that can once again be an asset to Palo Alto," Yonke said.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by YIMBY, a resident of University South
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:27 am

YIMBY is a registered user.

first Fresh Market west of Mississippi? Well, that's worth a visit right there (I'm serious). In fact, a visit to their website shows, indeed, that no states exist west of the Miss.!
Web Link


Posted by aResident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:36 am

I attended the entire four hour Planning Commission discussion last night on the Edgewood Plaza Proposal. Substantive concerns regarding traffic impact to thoroughfares immediately adjacent to the project (Channing, St. Francis, and especially West Bayshore and Embarcadero Road) were expressed. The concerns were not, as this article suggests, limited to impacts to pedestrians and bicyclists. City staff, commission members, the applicant and advocates for the project and the author of this article were, by and large, were dismissive of residents' concerns. I expect the project to receive final approval by the City Council next week without requiring that the [amended] final environmental impact report comprehensively address transportation and traffic impacts that involve pedestrians, bicyclists, automobiles, and tractor trailer trucks at the congested South 101 off ramp / West Bayshore / Embarcadero / St. Francis intersections.


Posted by Old Town Paly Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:09 am

Soooo looking forward to having that property developed back into a vibrant shopping center!! It has been sorely missed in our community at that location.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Great that the plans are moving forward AT LAST! We will patronize this shopping center and enjoy walking to it. Congratulations to the patient developer.
One "objection" -- traffic -- seems silly to place on this development.
Traffic issues would affect the area near Highway 101 -- on both sides of the highway -- regardless of whether there was: no shopping center, the olden days shopping center, the unoccupied shopping center (as at present), or the new revitalized shopping center.
I certainly prefer to have a wonderful, revitalized center.
About traffic in the area - There is that fancy, recently rebuilt commercial site on the bay side of 101 (corner of Embarcadero and E. Bayshore) that has a huge parking lot (I believe now leased to Stanford) which could contain a large number of cars. This place does (or will) contribute to 101 X Embarcadero and Embarcadero Rd in general traffic also.
Do not place traffic issues on the plate of Edgewood Shopping Center. A small center and grocery are not going to attract bigtime grocery shoppers who live in Midtown or Charleston Rd areas, for example. I am certain many of us local area residents who will use the grocery will walk or bike there. A lot of people walk and bike around here.
How about stationing a set of police where drivers speed off of 101 and deal with them if they are speeding unlawfully?! Many drivers speed to/from 101 and Stanford on Embarcadero. I know this since I have driven that route for years. Local residents in Duveneck/St. Francis do not speed off the highway since we will shortly turn into our neighborhood streets.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Not to quibble but some poetic license above. This is more like their third location west of the Mississippi.


Posted by born to shop, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Where are the renderings of the housing on the site?


Posted by Linca C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I would prefer to see a New Leaf Grocery Store there (a more local venture). I have to go all the way to Half Moon Bay to get the Best (and best priced) locally grown produce (I prefer them to the one day a week Farmer's Market's - although they are needed also).

This was my first neighborhood in Palo Alto 35 years ago. My hairdresser just closed up shop there - big loss for many of us - but no surprise obviously. I hope there will be a nice cafe by the park.


Posted by What is going on, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm

The city's Traffic manager was tongue tied in responding to problems raised about the traffic troubles. Problematic intersections, dangerous crossings, inadequate entry and exit etc., not enough parking!
He's going to wait until the public complains? They are complaining now!
It's not clear why this city official has taken such a passive stance. I await enlightenment -- why has he become so subservient to Jim Baer is the question.


Posted by Jacinto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Palo Alto lost it's charm around the late 90's when the influx of new money "techies" invaded the city. Sad. I will hold onto the houses until I can't stand no more and then find a place that Palo Alto used to be like.


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