Town Square

Post a New Topic

Long-delayed Professorville home gets go-ahead

Original post made on Oct 26, 2010

After three years of studies, public hearings and bureaucratic wrangling, a family's proposal to demolish and replace a building in Palo Alto's historic Professorville neighborhood finally received the green light Monday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 7:36 AM

Comments (83)

Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 7:57 am

"the council agreed that the process has gone too long and voted 8-1, with Councilwoman Karen Holman dissenting"

No surprise on that vote--Holman was behind the famous private property grab of a decade ago AKA the historic ordinance. She obviously sees everything in Palo Alto as historic and private property rights mean nothing to her. Even the HRB did not consider the home to be "historic", but that did not stop Holman from attempting to control a home she does not own.
Funny, also, how once again the council agrees that the process has gone on for so long. Not the first time this has happened. Do you think the council will ever do anything to alleviate this problem--like making sure that a small vocal minority, led by some of the city elite, does not trample on private property rights?


Posted by Polly Wanacracker, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

Yuck


Posted by gringo, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:54 am

After two years and $27,000. I gave up on PA and took my money to Costa Rica Bought land and starting building the next day permit in hand. Rock Costa Rica


Posted by commonsense, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:01 am

Embarrassing is right. I hope the HRB learned something here - fight the fights worth fighting for. This house was insignificant, virtually everyone agreed. That a few bad apples can add $500,000 to a project with a pathetic argument of preservation is terrible. Hope they learned something, indeed.


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

There is a thread that describes all the hoops that these people had to go through:

Web Link

The Weekly story also mentions the vocal minority that forced the owners to jump through these hoops and cost them $500K.

"Should it be demolished, "a precedent may be set for the demolition of other homes that are original to this historic district," Palo Alto resident Mary Ojakian said in an open letter to the city.
Other residents, including Miriam Palm and Beth Bunnenberg (a member of the Historic Resources Board but speaking as a resident) brought up the significance of the house's former owner and designer, the Duryea family, suggesting the structure should be considered more historical than its classification.
Palo Alto resident Susan Beall also spoke to the fears that the Professorville Historic District designation could be lost with the demolition and re-development, she said in an open letter to the city."


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:13 am

"That a few bad apples can add $500,000 to a project with a pathetic argument of preservation is terrible. Hope they learned something, indeed."

--These bad apples will not learn anything from it since there's no financial liability for them. I am glad the owner of the house was able to get through.


Posted by The ME generation rules, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

Why didn't the home owner compromise and remodel and enlarge the building? They could have remodeled and added on. But they want what they want and that's it.
The ME generation has lots of money and it can stamp its foot and insist on its luxuries. And damn anyone else.
The big money developers and real estate sellers came out to support the demolishers. They spent $300,000 on the process. Now it suddenly changed to $500,000. Whee! More! More!


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:51 am

First of all - finally!!!

Second - the City should reimburse this family for the money they spent through this ridiculous process.

Third - as far as remodeling (which is often much more expensive and definitely can take longer in a historic home for a variety of reasons including Title 24), from what I understand, the owners could not accommodate the needs of their elderly family members by remodeling the structure.


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:55 am

"Why didn't the home owner compromise and remodel and enlarge the building? They could have remodeled and added on. But they want what they want and that's it. "

You should read the initial story about this whole fiasco. they were told that the house could be demolished and rebuilt. They looked into re-use of the structure. Even the HRB said that the building was not historic.
You say they could have added on--in what direction up or to the sides--do you know if that would fly?
Seems to me that the issue was 3 or 4 "preservationists" who have no regard for private property rights.
It seems that anytime someone wants to build a new home, and they are within their rights to do it, others call them selfish. Is it jealousy or the need to control other's property without having any financial liability?


Posted by Perry A. Irvine, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm

My only regret is that I did not go before the Council and express my sincere apologies to my neighbors (whom I do not know nor have I met them) for what our City has done to them. I live 2 doors from this house and have for almost 26 years. I went through it when it was an open house and it obviously had substantial structural defects that any layman could see. That our City's process cost these people $500,000 is disgraceful.

I am wholeheartedly om favor of historical preservation (my home was build in 1926 and my office building was built in 1904) When we remodeled both of those, we not only were faithful to the original designs and details, but also restored many authentic interior details removed by prior owners.

However, it is beyond belief that meddling and nitpicking staff and HRB could delay this process and cause such unneeded expense. One only needs to look at the beautiful house in the 300 block of Kingsley built by the couple who successfully fought the historic preservation ordinance some years to know that the City does not necessarily have a lock on good taste and attractive buildings.

The City Council should rein in the HRB and any staff who support this terrible travesty


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

What also needs to be done is that the meddlers, who are named in the original Weekly article, need to be held financially responsible for their actions. Right now, with no financial stake in the matter, they are free to obstruct and force their narrow vision of what is historic onto others, costing these people large sums of money. At least one of these obstructionists is part of the self-proclaimed elite of the city--she has plenty of money and should reimburse the owners for the trouble her selfish desires to control property that does not belong to her. In addition Ms Holman should recuse herself for any matters dealing with so-called "historic" property given her past membership and involvement in trying to make everything in PA labeled as historic.


Posted by long gone & thrilled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Only in Palo Alto, Seriously! If only you all could put your energy toward saving the state of California instead of nit picking everybody's lives. This is the very reason I moved out of Palo Alto & out of California. $500K, do you know what the rotten school system there could do with those $$. it would be a start...


Posted by Basements, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I looked over the EIR for the project, and then it became clear to me why these property owners wanted to demolish and were not willing to preserve the main structure and expand. The report said that that if the house were preserved, they wouldn't be able to build as big a basement under the existing structure as they would if they tore it all down. As we know, basements are not counted in the Floor Area Ratio, so any basement space is extra living space beyond what the development standards for the zoning allow.

Something needs to be done about this incentive to build big basements. There was a lot of concern expressed a year or so ago about the impact new basements are having on neighboring properties and the water table The City was going to look into it, but that seems to have fizzled. Council member Holman was a strong voice supporting doing something about new basements.

Unfortunately, when one property owner is granted demolition, other property owners and residents often suffer. The City picks winners and losers. The Council majority decided to give more to one property owner. Many residents feel that by doing that, Council has taken away something valuable from the rest of us. However, for at least the past ten years, the City Council majority has consistently voted for demolishing historic structures whenever a project has come before them, so this vote does not surprise me.


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm

"Council member Holman was a strong voice supporting doing something about new basements."
Correction, Holman is a strong voice in micro-managing and controlling property that does not belong to her because of the arbitrary claim that something is "historic".
(and yes I know, the Duryea family lived in that house--big whoop)


Posted by amazing palo altans, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm

There are people in this community always think of themselves as elites. They think they are better than most of us. If you do sth they disagree, they will label you as rich but distasteful. What a joke. Enough already.


Posted by congrats, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Congratulations to the property owner for winning this battle. A slap on the face of those who opposed this project.


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I was curious so I took a drive all round Professorville. I was shocked to see what historic preservation has done. Some blocks look quite seedy and run down, why, because the homeowners can't remodel or demolish and rebuild. They are stuck in a time warp of slow dilapidation.

Because Professorville homeowners can't rejuvenate, tear down and rebuild; their neighborhood is slowly deteriorating into a hugely expensive slum. Looking ahead some years you may see their property values take a hit.

Palo Alto homeowners need to take control of their property rights and that goes for Professorville too.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Stop destroying the lovely old homes in Palo Alto and building Casa de Tacky's in their place. Palo Alto is looking more and more like Irvine every day. Really sick of all the construction in this City anyway. We are entitled to the right of peaceful enjoyment to our property and cannot experience that peace because of the incessant construction going on at all hours, often in violation of the hours set by the City of Palo Alto. The Saturday construction is especially egregious. People work all week and live stressed lives then want to relax on a Saturday to what???? The sound of jackhammers, drills and other construction noise pollution. Some even violate and work on Sundays...so lovely waking up to HAMMERING at 8am. We have to endure worker vehicles parked all over the street, some have even hit our cars. Nails and other debris left on the street and sidewalk. Litter from lunches strewn about. The cacaphony of noise from the various construction sites is enough to drive a person out of their mind!


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I live in Charleston Gardens and am not aware of many construction projects going on in the ares. Perhaps you can tell us where they are located so we can see the problems first hand--otherwise your post sounds like sour grapes


Posted by Jan, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

The city SHOULD enforce the hours that were laid out. Very unfortunate if people have to be impacted by noise etc. when their ARE city rules and standards!! Why have any rules then if you aren't going to support and enforce them.....??


Posted by Professorville fan, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I don't think many of you have thought about the extremely modern two story structure that they are planning on building. That is the issue. Why did they buy in the heart of historic professorville? 405.Lincoln sits 50 yards away from the large rock that marks professorville's historic significance. It is a very visible corner and will now have a house that looks like a space ship should take off from it. That is what had the hrb so worried. You should look at the plans. They are removing a house that blended with the historic neighborhood and replacing it with a modern eye sore. Modern homes can be beautiful- this one with be an eye soar for the whole neighborhood- the only professorville neighbors that showed up in support live blocks away. There realtor is the one that said they could tear it down originally. Maybe the fact that all their immediate neighbors opposed their plans should have told them something-"go build your modern monstrosity elsewhere!"


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm

"They are removing a house that blended with the historic neighborhood and replacing it with a modern eye sore."
The new house ha snot been built yet, but we are already hearing from the "tasteful" people that it will be an "eye sore". Sound familiar--any house that a perosn of taste does not like is an eye sore.

"this one with be an eye soar for the whole neighborhood- the only professorville neighbors that showed up in support live blocks away."
Perhaps you missed the post above from Perry Irvine.

"Maybe the fact that all their immediate neighbors opposed their plans should have told them something-"go build your modern monstrosity elsewhere!""
Do you know this for a fact? The other question your comment brings up is how much say should a non-owner of a property have on a lawful remodel by the owner? Can I move in next to you and tell you what you can and cannot do with your property?


Posted by who are you?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Professorvill fan said "Maybe the fact that all their immediate neighbors opposed their plans should have told them something-"go build your modern monstrosity elsewhere!""

Are you out of your mind? Who do you think you are? You are just amazing!!!




Posted by to preserver your historic building, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Professorville fan,

I suggest that you buy the property from the current owner. Of course, the price has gone up by 500, 000.


Posted by Preserve Palo Alto, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 26, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Bigger is not better. Big houses on our small Palo Alto lots is an intrusion on the privacy of surrounding neighbors. Replacing any small Spanish style house with a giant McMansion is not only distasteful but obnoxious. Downtown North is the playground for rich architects who want to maximize their investments by building the BIGGEST houses they can possibly cram on a lot. Flag lot? All the better to cram two GIANT houses on one small lot. And then...sell them and take the money and buy up more and more and more until you'd have people believing Palo Alto was established around 2001. I'm sorry our city process cost the Professorville couple an extra fee since they "won" in the end anyway. It's still sad to see the house go.


Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

"Bigger is not better. Big houses on our small Palo Alto lots is an intrusion on the privacy of surrounding neighbors"

--well, the city sets limit on how big a house you can build on an existing lot. As long as the property owner comply with the rule, what can you say? Are you willing to spend $500,000 to help change the rule?

Bigger is not better for YOU of course since you dont live there.


Posted by Donald, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

From professorville fan, "..the only professorville neighbors that showed up in support live blocks away..."

At Monday's council meeting where this issue was discussed at length, the applicants read several letters from adjacent or near by neighbors in favor of the upgraded site. Before one offers opinions, they should learn all the facts.

A speaker, Mr. David Lieberman, pointed out that this property was not in the professorville area. If he's right, the whole subject is moot and a tempest in a teapot - except for the $500,000 expense fighting a small group of "our way or the highway".


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Cudoes to the property owner for not giving up and going against the Goliath! Hope his family will build a beautiful house and enjoy it for a long time. I am in complete support of tasteful rebuilding - ther are too many faceless deteriorating ugly track houses in Palo Alto. Palo Alto housing stock is not at all like Berkeley Hills where each house, even old, has a character and is interesting to look at.


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2010 at 6:28 pm

"Big houses on our small Palo Alto lots is an intrusion on the privacy of surrounding neighbors" City code requires that at least 40% of your lot remain porous, there are setback codes, height limits etc.

Preserve Palo Alto is exaggerating because that is a small lot so the house can't possibly be that big.


Posted by Ariel Gore, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I am John Duryea's daughter. His father built the beautiful Craftsman at 405 and I grew up there. I hope all you Palo Altans love your town after you tear down everything that drew you to it.


Posted by What drew me to PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 7:58 pm

"I am John Duryea's daughter. His father built the beautiful Craftsman at 405 and I grew up there"

--What are you trying to say? The property owner who paid millions to your father should keep the house in the way YOU want? Are you kidding me?

"I hope all you Palo Altans love your town after you tear down everything that drew you to it."

"tear down everything"? No, just a run-down house. And it's not the houses that many of us were drawn to Palo Alto. It's the schools, the potential of building our dream houses on the properties we own.



Posted by Ariel Gore, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Not trying to say anything more than what I said.

But just to clarify: No one paid my father millions. He couldn't afford to keep the house on a minister's income.

Hope you have a nice time at your nice schools.

I do love all the libertarian flavor comments. You live in a town that imports its sidewalk dirt from Princeton and won't allow a black person without a PhD to buy propertyÖ and you are REALLY going to complain about your "freedom" and your uptight city council?

Best with it.


Posted by Nan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:26 pm

It's very unfortunate that the owners were forced to go through such a long process before their proposal came to a resolution. But don't blame concerned neighbors for the length of the process. The city attorney was obligated by changes in case law to initiate an EIR. This happened after the owners bought the property, and before they submitted their proposal, so they weren't grandfathered in. Also, the HRB was blindsided by this proposal, through no fault of the owners or the HRB--the HRB only had a chance to review the completed submittal two months ago,which was also the first time the neighbors were able to formally weigh in. If anyone has seen the shoebox constructed at Cowper and Seale in my neighborhood, you can see why neighbors might be concerned!!


Posted by What drew me to PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm

"Not trying to say anything more than what I said."

--really?

"But just to clarify: No one paid my father millions. He couldn't afford to keep the house on a minister's income."

-- So the owner got it for free? And that's why you want a say in that property you do NOT own?


Hope you have a nice time at your nice schools.

--Yes, we do.


"I do love all the libertarian flavor comments. You live in a town that imports its sidewalk dirt from Princeton and won't allow a black person without a PhD to buy property? "

--What prompts you to make a claim like that? I have a good friend who is black and works and lives in PA happily? Are you trying to label people who disagree with you as racists? This happens too often.


"and you are REALLY going to complain about your "freedom? and your uptight city council?"

--Everyone has the right to fight for one's freedom? In this case, the freedom of building one's dream house on his own property. And the city council? They were doing you a favor for letting this drag on for 3 years and wasting the owner 500,000 dollars.


Posted by Hooray, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Seems like most of the people who have followed this story are happy that they City Council did the right thing and voted 8-1 against that "preservation board" and apologized to the homeowners in addition. This is the right outcome. Finally, Palo Alto government does something right!


Posted by Grace, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 26, 2010 at 8:55 pm

As Advocacy Chair for Palo Alto Stanford Heritage (PASTHeritage.org), I've seen many Professorville houses upgraded and improved over the years. Most have been compatible with the neighborhood, and accomplished without demolition(the final EIR on the city's website has the complete list of projects). The 405 Lincoln case is extreme; most Professorville owners choose to work with what they have, and go through the HRB process without such an arduous experience. Our annual Holiday House Tour (12/12) features six houses in Professorville where owners new and old have chosen to remodel lightly or dramatically, but without demolition. The owners in Professorville I've had the pleasure to meet wish to honor their historic neighborhood--and I hope as a community we honor their wishes.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:18 pm

congrats to the current property owner for staying the course on the approval process. Awful it took 500k, though.


Posted by what drew me to PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2010 at 10:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Is the minister being referred to in this thread the one who was the Catholic priest?


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2010 at 6:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

Grace--for too long your organization has held residents hostage with your claims that certain homes are "historic". This is hardly the case. I am not sure why you people feel the need to classify everything as "historic". Do you feel that PA is an inferior city if it does not have "historic" homes?
You have no problem trampling on private property rights and forcing people to waste money while jumping through hoops in order to satisfy your desires. I would have thought that after the voters overwhelmingly defeated your attempt at a private property grab (aka the historic ordinance) a decade ago you would have learned that most people in the city do not see any "historic".


BTW, I am not sure if that is the real Ariel Gore writing, but the comments are hysterical
It is about time to let private property owners that follow the rules deal with their property as they see fit, without interference from an organization with an agenda that does not fit the mindset of most residents.


Posted by resident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

Some people who have lived in Palo Alto for longer than most of us think that they OWN this town.

Congratulations to the property owner for your determination and endurance to win this battle. What a victory!


Posted by OldPaloAltoPop, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm

PAST started out twenty years ago as an organization dedicated to raising awareness and giving tours and sharing the history of the Professorville area. My wife was one of the original members, and she spent many a Saturday morning giving tours, and I got to hear many stories about the individual houses in the district.

Somewhere along the way, PAST was hijacked by preservationists with a more extreme agenda. Anyone who walks through Professorville more than once knows that some houses are very significant, and others are very insignificant. The problem with a Historic District is that it accelerates the decline of these insignificant homes, since the process and the expense to improve them is so laborious and time consuming.

Apparently PAST and the HRB are now loaded with people with a single agenda - preserve everything at all costs. Preservation is a great goal - but it needs to be done in context and in the right places. Claiming the sky is falling because a trivial home is being demolished hurts the credibility of these two bodies. And, so the City Council felt no issue with voting 8-1 to overrule their recommendations.

Just to set the record straight, PAST was not founded by people with extreme preservationist agendas. It was a good group of people who wanted to share the history of that neighborhood more broadly. Preservation was certainly a part of their objective, but having sat in on some of the early meetings and events 20+ years ago, I can assure you it was not about the kind of extreme advocacy we have seen recently from the group.

Preserve what is worth preserving, I like to say.


Posted by resident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 27, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Thanks OldPaloAltoPop for little history lesson.


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

"PAST was hijacked by preservationists with a more extreme agenda"
Yes, an one of those "preservationists" is now sitting on the city council and we can tell what her agenda is based on her vote on this issue.
That is why Holman should recuse herself from any matters dealing with issues in the future. And let's not forget her role in the historic ordinance debacle (everything over a certain age is "historic")


Posted by Holman should resign, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

AS an addendum to OldPaloAltoPop post, one only has to go to the PAST website (Web Link) and look at the hysterical and false comments regarding this issue:

"Professorville home threatened. You can help!"


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm

$500,000!!!
And that is just one example, what about the people who end up spending 10,20.30,40 thousand.
Watch a committee on TV sometime, "go back" "i'd like to see this or that" etc.
Changes, revisions, appeals, drawings, renderings, etc. All cost money and impact peoples lives. For the board or committee member its a pen stroke or a statement.
$500,000 would send a lot of kids to college, buy books, police cars,
fix streets, etc.
Good thing Frank L Wright was not trying to build something in Palo Alto today.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm

"You have no problem trampling on private property rights and forcing people to waste money while jumping through hoops in order to satisfy your desires."

That's tellin' her, HSR. Now really show her who's boss - bulldoze your house this weekend.


Posted by Ariel Gore, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Of course I am probably just being a sucker posting any more here after people's baiting comments and emails. The whole "I know where you live" thing is pretty creepy, y'all.

So... I don't know why I feel compelled to try one more time to express why this whole fight might come off as offensive to someone whose beautiful ancestral home is being torn down.

Obviously, I don't think I OWN your precious private property. It was stolen Indian land when my grandfather built on it.

That my father ended up with a predatory loan that caused him to lose it is neither here nor there. He did fine. He never starved. He had no issues with the buyers who flipped it. He was in fact glad to get away from Palo Alto's growing greed problem.

He loved the home his father built, but he didn't want to stay in Palo Alto, surrounded by greedy bubble-living people.

But yes - it does feel intrinsically offensive to read that someone has spent half a million dollars trying to get permission to tear down a beautiful 100-year-old home in an historic neighborhood. Why buy an old home in a historical neighborhood for the LOT?

Many of you describe it as an old slum-home. So be it. It was the most beautiful home I have ever lived in. I guess I am a slum-dwelling whatever.

Anyway.

Yes.

It feels intrinsically offensive to hear from people who intentionally live in a semi-fascist community because they don't want to deal with the riff-raff then complain that the community is fascist. Obviously you benefit from your basically gated community in other realms of your bubble-life.

The new owners contacted me early in their fight and I never challenged their right to do whatever they wanted. But it seemed odd that they asked me for old family pictures of the house and property, claiming that they wanting to "restore" it. Maybe they did want to restore it the day they emailed me. But it did seem creepy that perhaps they were ready to tap people (and lie to people?) who grew up in the house in order to prove that it wasn't historical.

Last month they contacted me to ask for more information about my grandparents because they wanted to make an altar to them -- to literally appeal to my ancestors for help in getting the place torn down!! HAHA! If my ancestors want to haunt y'all -- including a particularly strong ghost y'all don't even know about -- HAHAHAHA.

Oh - you are funny --

I'm sure you'll get what you deserve.

Peace out.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Ariel -

I've remodeled and built a number of homes all over the country, sometimes you start out wanting to remodel and the costs (and constraints) just make it impossible. Palo Alto actually makes it more challenging to remodel in many cases, starting from scratch is much easier. So the owner may have begun with the best of intentions.

That said, I would say that pretty much ANY one story house in North Palo Alto for sale with a decent size (over 7000 sq ft) lot will be torn down and replaced with a 2 story house with a basement (unless its in the flood zone). Simple economics.


Posted by Basements, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I am surprised to read Ariel Gore's comments. Last month, one of the property owners wrote the following comment on an earlier thread on Town Square Online. That comment left me with the impression that John Duryea's daughters supported the demolition. Was I misled, or just gullible?

"Posted by Michelle Arden, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm

To all who have commented on this story: I'm the "Arden" involved. We can't respond to all of your comments individually. However, we have tried to document the complex set of facts and their history at the following URL.

Web Link

We understand that this is a difficult topic and that there are many valid opinions. CEQA has potentially very wide-reaching effects on the community as a whole and it is worthwhile taking the time to understand those effects.

For those who knew the Duryea family, we have long been in touch with John's daughters through a mutual contact, and they have expressed no concern to us about a potential demolition. They have our full agreement that, should a demolition take place, they would have anything that they considered to be of value from the current structure.

Michelle"

This comment can be found at the following link: Web Link






Posted by Julia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Hi I am the mutual friend of John's daughters. I don't think any of us are happy to see this home full of memories of John and his family go. I can remember sitting with John and interviewing him for a class in college. He described to me what life was like here in Palo Alto for him as a child. I feel very fortunate to have recorded that conversation and have it in my heart. He was an amazing being. I was unaware we could protest this home being torn down. I contacted Michelle only to ask if the Duryea daughters could have the items in the home John's father carved (a beautiful brass fox handle) things like that. She was kind and agreed. I really hope that this was not misunderstood to mean anyone is at all ok/happy with this home being torn down.
Michelle if you are reading this I hope you are still able to keep your agreement that some of the items from the home can be given to the Duryea daughters through me. Thank you.


Posted by Duryea is who???, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Julia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

John's daughters did not sell the house by the way. John and his wife did. His daughter's did not profit. Why doesn't anyone ever say who they are on these posts? Is is it just a chance to be openly rude and not be accountable for it?


Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Michelle and I don't have time to reply to all of them, but there were a few that seemed especially important.

Ariel, I've just reviewed all the email that you and Michelle exchanged over the past couple of years. We were very clear from the beginning that we were planning demolition, and you acknowledged that several times. We did ask for photos as part of the historical research we were required to do, and Michelle mentioned that one reason for that was "reconstruction" of the original appearance of the house. You may have misinterpreted that to mean a restoration project, but that was never our intent, as the comments about demolition made clear. Finally, we never said we were building an "altar" to your grandparents. California law suggests that whenever a site is changed you should consider documenting what was there before, for example, by placing a marker. It seemed polite to ask if you might want one. Apparently that wasn't a good idea.

All that said, I understand your sadness and sympathize. A lot of us have been through similar experiences, and this sort of change is always hard to accept.

Julia, nothing has changed about our previous agreement. Any items you or the Duryea daughters want are yours. We don't ask that you be "ok/happy" with all this; we aren't, either. However, John and Eve left this house behind and moved ahead with their lives. The rest of us can do the same.

I know what you mean about public nastiness! A lot of this discussion would have been better handled in person, or at least privately.

There were several comments about the condition of the house and the feasibility of enlarging it. It's too big a subject to discuss here, but it was covered in public documents and in the testimony at the Council hearing. The short summary is that the house is in pretty bad shape and would have to be rebuilt completely to bring it up to code. Even then zoning rules and the physical layout of the house make it impossible to have some features that are important to us (ground-level access for my partially-disabled Dad, yard space for the kids, etc.).

I hope that helps everyone understand the situation a little better.

Allen


Posted by Leslie gore, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 28, 2010 at 4:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by jefferson, a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Sad. Understandable. Irrelevant.


A classic battle of NIMBY vs NIMBY. Much ado about NIMBY. Seriously, I have fond memories in that house and am sad to see it go, but I'm not surprised. What does this HRB really hope to preserve? class? character? PA has had no class or character for YEARS. History!? hahaha THAT's funny.

I recall outsiders once referring to PA as "Shallow Alto"...seems so fitting now. Money does not equal taste or class...case in point.


Posted by Julia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Thank you Allen for your post.


Posted by The throne, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 28, 2010 at 7:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm

The Weekly may want to do a story on Ms Holman. Ask her why she was the lone vote against this couple that was basically screwed by the system in PA. Find out why she thought this home should be preserved. Ask her what her relationship with the Duryea family is. Find out why she continues to lack respect for private property rights. Ask her why she felt that the historic ordinance was not the self-serving issue that would have usurped authority of persoanl property.
it would be very enlightening to all of us for Holman to present her views on this matter [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by A question of values, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm

"Ask": my observation of Councilwoman Holman is that she is a person of honesty and integrity and, unlike perhaps yourself, she doesn't think money is the highest value in the world. She appears to be a person who thinks the history of a city or person, for that matter, is important and should be preserved. I hold that point of view and hope she does too.
I for one, hope she doesn't respond to your request because I think that people who worship money and property above all, scoff at people who think more humane values are primary. I hope this isn't too much for you to understand. Just my 2 cents.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm

@values - Holman may be honest and sincere, no one said otherwise that I saw. The question is how she sees individual rights against some kind of collective rights - or maybe just the rights of a few preservationists. It's always tempting to tell other people, rich or poor, what they should do with their lives or property - but we should be careful, lest others start telling US what to do. Holman may well draw the limits far outside of where most of the rest of us. It would be interesting to hear about that.


Posted by A question of values, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Looks like we have our own Teabaggers in Palo Alto, who see the awful government abridging their rights. (Not real rights, just property rights.)
Beware "collective rights?"
oh, I'm so scared, the evil government is taking over! Next thing you know, they'll want the poor to get health care. Deliver us from evil!!


Posted by Gergory, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

@Values - If I recall, Holman championed the "Historic Homes" measure in 2000 that would have given the city ability to regulate design changes in every PA house built prior to 1950. That's pretty extreme in my book, and the voters did not approve it.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm

A question of values--I will have to disagree with you assessment of Holman. I find her to be selfish and self-centered and focused on a goal that shows little respect for other's and their rights. Holman, IMHO, is one of those people who are just not happy living in a nice town with nice homes and nice people. In order for her to be happy there has to be something "special" about Palo Alto--in Holman's case it is the the need to have "historic" homes.
As Me Too pointed out, Holman was the ringleader behind the failed historic ordinance--at that time one of the problems with the ordinance was that the majority of the people felt that it gave too much power over private property to others. Well 10 years have passed and Holman still apparently is clinging to that mantra.
BTW this has nothing to do with money--this has to do with a couple that were put through the ringer by the city--the council members that voted in favor of them said that it was a ridiculous situation. Even the HRB said that the home could be demolished. Yet Holman (and the wife of another former council member) were trying their best to obstruct these people further.
At the very least the city needs to see what connections Holman still has with these historic organizations in the city and whether her voting on these matter is a conflict of interest.
I am not sure why you think Holman should not answer these questions--after all she is a servant of the people and we should know her views on these issues and why she votes the way she does.


Posted by Nan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Re 500K spent: remember, this includes all the fees they paid, not all of which were the result of having to go through the EIR.

--They had architectural fees, which they would have paid anyway. Maybe could have got away with less there if they'd hired someone with experience in designing for historic neighborhoods. It's like hiring a tax attorney when you need a patent attorney.
--They willingly bought a house listed as "Contributing" in the city's Historic Inventory, and located in Professorville, so they knew they were going to have to go through the HRB process.
--They wanted a second story, so they knew they were going to have to go through the "Second Story Review" process.
--They had a Heritage Tree, so they knew they were going to have to hire an arborist.

It adds up fast, as many of us know. It's expensive and time-consuming for anyone to go through a major construction project in Palo Alto. They spent more than usual, to be sure, and the length of time it took to get to the HRB was unconscionable. But lots of Professorville owners have gone through similar processes, and it's looking pretty spiffy these days. Just look at the corner of Addison near the HP house. The people there built a really nice house (a tear-down that's compatible), and the folks across the street are restoring their old home.

There have been some posts about how the Professorville owners haven't been able to afford to upgrade their properties. Drive around Professorville, as I did yesterday. While there are always houses that need a coat of paint or a new roof, aren't there some in your neighborhood too? I thought it looked pretty nice! Make sur you look at the Professorville map. Here is a link to paste (soory, don't know how to hyperlink here): Web Link

Note that the district is defined by the little purple dots, and not the red line (and yes, 405 Lincoln is part of it).


Posted by Nan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Dear Samuel,

Juana Briones supported herself and her 10 children in an age where a majority of people (including, but not limited to, women) had no voting rights, and limited property rights. She was industrious enough to acquire a large property, and energetic enough to hold onto it through a long court battle once California became a territory of the United States. The beginnings of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley perhaps? I should think she would be one of your heroines!!

Cordially,

Nan


Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 31, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Nan,

You may not have seen the background information we posted last month, which mentioned that $500K is the incremental expense caused by the EIR, not the total expense of the project.

It doesn't include the cost of one house design (architect, surveyor, site engineer, HRB review, Individual Review, etc.), any expenses related to maintaining the house over the past three years, or any expenses related to the tree. It does include costs of the City Staff, the City's environmental consultant, the City's preservation consultant and his staff, an additional historical researcher, architectural and engineering work for the two additional house designs plus revisions that were required by the EIR (remember this included paying for the City's consultants as well as our architect), lawyers, CEQA fees, etc.

Your comment suggests that the costs are within a normal range, similar to those for everyone in Professorville, and should have been well-understood up front. Apparently you didn't have the correct information about which costs were included. More importantly, this was the first residential EIR ever developed in Palo Alto; all the processes/procedures and legal frameworks had to be created from scratch, and as the applicants we wound up bearing much of that cost. I think if you ask anyone involved whether it was possible to know the costs at the beginning of the project, we would all answer “no."

Allen


Posted by Nan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Allen,

As you know what you paid, I stand corrected. While I am sad that you're tearing down the house instead of enlarging and repairing it, I don't think anyone should have to go through years of "make it up as you go along" entitlements processes. There's got to be a better way, and I think we can all agree on that.

I would be interested to hear how you would suggest improving the process. Is there a way to accommodate history (especially in an historic district), or is it an all-or-nothing proposition?

Cordially,

Nan


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2010 at 7:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Nan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2010 at 10:36 pm

How exactly are "individuals" holding hostage the process? Lots of inflammatory language without many specifics from you, oh thou of no name or neighborhood. 405 Lincoln has had a city sign in front of it for years, but it didn't come before the public (or the HRB for that matter) for comment until this fall.


Posted by Julia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2010 at 11:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2010 at 6:32 am

Why does the neighborhood where one live matter?

Regarding the other comment, I already posted a link to an earlier story about this fiasco. Here it is again:
Web Link

from that article:
"Preservationists fear that a domino effect will take hold in the neighborhood if the home is allowed to be replaced. Should it be demolished, "a precedent may be set for the demolition of other homes that are original to this historic district," Palo Alto resident Mary Ojakian said in an open letter to the city."
Other residents, including Miriam Palm and Beth Bunnenberg (a member of the Historic Resources Board but speaking as a resident) brought up the significance of the house's former owner and designer, the Duryea family, suggesting the structure should be considered more historical than its classification."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Nan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2010 at 8:13 am

"The fact that the council allows individuals to tie up people for years on end without any relief and without any financial responsibility on their part is ridiculous."

I ask again, how exactly have "individuals tie[d] up people for years on end," and what does the council have to do with it? The comments you cite are from an article dated September of this year--hardly "years on end"--and are from individuals willing to stand up and voice their opinions in an open public process, as is their right. It takes courage, because using their real names in meetings or in letters leaves them open to venom and innuendo by anonymous posters.

The council, and the HRB, can choose whether to consider these individuals' opinions in their deliberations, or not. You have the same right to go before any public body and do the same, during a comment period which is prescribed, in other words not unlimited.

Your implication is that this public process is trampling on individual liberties. I would argue the opposite.




Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2010 at 8:36 am

You are not bothering to read the story that started this thread.
From that story, some interesting facts:

1) "The board agreed with the applicants' environmental analysis, which showed that the one-story building at 405 Lincoln is not a historically significant structure." (the board in this case was the HRB)

2)"The applicants, Allen Akin and Michelle Arden, have been trying to get the building demolished and replaced with a two-story building since June 2007. On Monday, Akin and several of his neighbors complained to the council about the obstacle course he's had to navigate through. "

3)"Mayor Pat Burt said the city regrets that the process has taken this long.
Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa agreed and urged his colleagues to move the project along.
"It's embarrassing, absurd and I'm sure absolutely frustrating for the applicant," Espinosa said."

I suggest you read the entire story, look at the time line and see how individuals have acted to obstruct this matter.


Posted by Julia, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm

For "Ask Holman" I really dont care what neighborhood you live in frankly, it really doesn't matter. I just notice you keep calling this woman out and have a lot of harsh things to say to her but leave no identification of who you are. It just sort of weakens your attacks for me. I get tired of listening to it get so personal towards her but you yourself can't identify yourself in any way.
However I do appreciate your side of the argument, I just feel you are coming from the extreme other side and there has to be a middle ground. I grew up here and am always shocked at how much the town has changed with the tear downs and the super sized mansions or homes that look way out of character for the neighborhoods. This is a beautiful city. Some of these houses look so bleck, like someone was only in it to make money fast. I understand your trip on privacy and rights, but there has to be some limit to the ugliness of it all. It is just my opinion.


Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Nan,

I have some thoughts about preservation and process. I offered to talk to Karen Holman about them after the first HRB hearing, but she wasn't willing then. I made a few comments at the Council hearing last week, and I'll summarize them here.

A house is called a “contributor" because it's listed under that heading in a District's nomination, even if no reason for listing it is given. Contributors are not equally important. If a District is loosely defined, like Professorville, it can include houses that are listed as contributors but have none of the characteristics that are specified as defining the District. Such houses are not “significant" contributors. (Here I'm using “significant" in the sense required by CEQA.) City policy is different for significant and non-significant contributors, as is State law. 405 Lincoln is not a significant contributor.

Most people believe that “compatibility" means making new buildings look like they're old buildings. But that's not the way the national, state, or local rules for preservation work, even for Historic Districts. New houses must have compatible size, materials, and so forth, but virtually any style is permitted, and there are explicit rules against creating new houses that are historical counterfeits. A major part of our project was dedicated to meeting the requirements of these rules, especially the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.

In Palo Alto, preserving a genuinely valuable building means protecting some of its outer walls, and not much else. I find that odd and disappointing, and I suspect many people would agree.

People invoke preservation when what they really want is to restrict the allowable styles for new buildings, fight projects that Zoning and Individual Review would allow, fix prices of particular properties, or simply stop change, all of it, because change is hard to accept. It's not possible to have a successful, broadly-supported preservation policy until you can treat all these concerns separately.

Keep preservation under purely local control. Use ordinances or neighborhood easements that clearly spell out what can be done. Provide reasonable ways for future residents to modify the rules if their priorities differ from the consensus of our time.

Avoid policies where a consultant or decision-making body can arbitrarily block or redefine a project. (I think this is where the obstruction by individuals that Ask Holman mentioned really has its effect; a small number of demands by well-connected people can sway a political body.) As much as possible should be ministerial, not discretionary, so that CEQA can't be abused.

Finally, large Historic Districts are a mistake. As Districts get larger, it's harder to justify what's special about them, harder to define the rules for living in them, and harder to defend them (because the impact of any change is diluted by their size and variety). Preservation professionals seem well aware of this, especially in the case of Professorville.

Allen


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I am "calling her out" because she was the lone vote against this matter--knowing her history of sponsoring the historic ordinance and her "everything is historic" mindset, it is clear that she has an agenda that is contrary to what most of the city stands for.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"However I do appreciate your side of the argument, I just feel you are coming from the extreme other side and there has to be a middle ground."
Well, it seems that everytime this happens the council say how sorry they are and how the process needs to change. Then it happens all over again. The middle ground should be that once a notice of changing/tearing down a home is made public--people get to have their say, the HRB or any other boards go over the matter and a decision is made within a few months--not sure how you can justify a 3.5 year ordeal for a home that the HRB even says is not historic. and I will state again, that on any votes dealing with "historic" homes Holman should abstain from voting. Also people that do not have a DIRECT stake in the home, should not be allowed to drag out an approval process and in this case I am referring to people like Mary Ojakian, Miriam Palm and Beth Bunnenberg--(who by the way admits to being on the HRB---conflict of interest anyone)--and members of the PA historical society.
the bottom line is how much input should people who do not own the property have on a property as long as the homeowner is following the rules--once we get that settled we will have that middle ground


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm

". I offered to talk to Karen Holman about them after the first HRB hearing, but she wasn't willing then"
If that statement is true (and I have no doubt that Mr Akin is being honest) then that is another strike against Holman and goes further to prove my point, that Holman has an agenda and does not respect private property rights, especially when they go against her narrow view of what is "historic".


Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Ask Holman,

I failed to word my comment carefully enough. Karen Holman refused to meet because her personal policy is not to talk to project applicants. I think that's shortsighted (in her position I would get as much information as I had time to collect), but she did explain her reasons.

Allen


Posted by Ask Holman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:54 am

I have been going back and reading some of the posts on this thread and noticed that some editing has occurred with my posts. If the editors feel the need to edit my posts, that is their perogative. however in some cases some of what I had written has been deleted without the usual notation "[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]", whole some posts have contained this info when my post has been edited. I think the editors should adopt a policy where any and all deletions are so noted---not sure why this is not done on a regular basis, but considering the criteria for editing posts no one can really know for sure.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Having recently driven by this house (which is now under construction), I can TOTALLY understand the neighborhood opposition. Not only is it totally out of character for the neighborhood, it is truly odd and unattractive. Hopefully it will look better when it is done and landscaped! (The process, however, was still ridiculous!)


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Gourmet hot dogs, sausage food truck coming to the Peninsula
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 2,679 views

Allowing Unauthorized Immigrants to Learn and Earn Legally Will Help the Economy
By Steve Levy | 31 comments | 2,120 views

College applications: round three
By Sally Torbey | 24 comments | 1,592 views

Is HBO's Silicon Valley Any Good?
By Anita Felicelli | 14 comments | 1,545 views

PAUSD Leadership Challenges
By Paul Losch | 14 comments | 1,088 views