Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto approves downtown 'Gateway' building

Original post made on May 15, 2012

Downtown Palo Alto will soon have a prominent new "gateway" building next to the Caltrain station, though the glassy new development won't be as tall or ambitious as the one originally proposed. ==B Related material:==
• [Web Link Editorial: Money as a 'public benefit'?]
• [Web Link Guest Opinion: Even without housing, Gateway offers many benefits]
• [Web Link Guest Opinion: Gateway project breaks all of city's zoning rules]
• [Web Link Parking concerns central in Lytton Gateway meeting]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 1:06 AM

Comments (40)

Posted by Scharff-Needs-To-Go!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

> Scharff praised the package of public benefits and
> said that the building itself can be considered a benefit.

This is nuts!

This building will generate some property taxes, to be sure. But the PAUSD is the beneficiary—and all of that money will go to increased labor costs—meaning higher salaries and pensions for staff. How is that a benefit for the public at large. The City will receive about 9% of the property tax generated. There will be some money paid by the developers for "impact fees", but hardly enough to offset the damage this people occupying the building will cause to the downtown area.

There are no models in place to track the public spending vs tax revenue generated by these big, ugly, buildings on our small downtown area. So, claims by Scharff are impossible to prove, and sadly, equally impossible to disprove. Monitoring the impact of business growth in an area vs the cost to sustain this growth should be one of the functions of the Planning Department. But not here in Palo Alto.

The comments about "planned communities" needing a re-think is very valid. This complaint about the abuse of this loop-hole in the zoning code/permitting process comes up time-and-again in Palo Alto, but there does not seem to be any political cohesion in the voters to do anything about it.

Traffic in downtown will probably come to full gridlock if the project to put a theater/office building where MacArthur Park is now situated is approved.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.


Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 15, 2012 at 10:10 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

(I posted this previously and for some reason it was removed--another example of censorship of news stories)

The Weekly forgot to mention the attempt by Schmid to extort $1 million from the developers at the last minute. Espinosa said that the attempt was inappropriate, excessive and flagrant. You can read about it in the Daily Post (a mor reliable source for local news)


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2012 at 10:25 am

Oh no! This is a disaster! DISASTER! New homes right by public transit and Palo Alto's impressively walkable downtown and a grocery store! How will our community survive the travesty?


Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford
on May 15, 2012 at 10:40 am

Sid Espinoza said the following:

"This is an exciting and appropriate building for this site," Councilman Sid Espinosa said. "I'm excited to see this become a reality. This is a great day for Palo Alto."

Sid, what exactly are you smoking?

1. "exciting" is not a property of the building, you're just conveying that it excites you. What exactly about the building "excites" you? Let's hear the reasons.

2. What exactly makes this an "appropriate" building for this site? I'd like to hear the reasons. What about the building makes it appropriate to that site? Don't just assert, argue your case. This isn't high school, make a case.

3. A "great day for Palo Alto"? Talk about hollow rhetoric! What exactly about this building on this site being approved by the PACC makes this a "great day" for Palo Alto?
It's going to result in more traffic on Alma, more traffic having more problems turning onto Lytton, more traffic trying to get onto University. Have you tried to enter Palo Alto by car in the morning or evening the last year or so? Traffic is backed up onto El Camino and it can take 10-15 minutes to get into downtown PA having turned off of El Camino toward Palm Drive. What about this situation makes it a great day, the fact that the developers threw in a few so-called public benefits to get approval for this structure? Did any of the CC members accept any campaign donations, directly OR indirectly, from either the developers or representatives or friends or proxies of the developers?

4. The "New Urbanism". This is yet another buzz phrase that will be trendy for a while, then pass into obscurity or be succeeded by another new phrase that will be invoked as the new gospel. The only thing that matters is what is or will be the effect of any new, large-sized structure on the quality of life in Palo Alto. I have heard no discussion about that from CC members. Maybe they think that more vehicular congestion and pollution and more crowded sidewalks, and more people struggling to find parking spaces, and cars spilling over into neighborhoods, more horns being blown, more frustration behind the wheel, and other predictable effects of this decision represents a "great day" for Palo Alto.

I'm afraid I can't agree that that is so. Slowly but surely, the small scale and special ambience of Palo Alto is being transformed and the downtown area is becoming more congested and less tranquil. Somehow such considerations don't factor into the decision-making of our elected officials. The big picture is left out of decision-making about the economic merits of individual buildings. The aggregate effect of such repeated myopia will prove to be profoundly distressing.


Posted by long time resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

Ugh! I grieve for the Palo Alto of the past: when one could easily drive a downtown street in a reasonable amount of time; when people cared about others instead of only money; when kick-backs weren't a common reality.
Look up the Coucil members that approved this and vote them out! Enough!


Posted by Watch the City Council, a resident of Downtown North
on May 15, 2012 at 11:36 am

I too was struck by Espinosa saying "This is an exciting and appropriate building for this site." Does he really believe it? or does he need donations for his future political ambitions. And Pat Burt wouldn't give up on having subsidized office space for local nonprofits.
Now we know all who will receive substantial campaign donations from Baer, the Lunds, and Foster. And from their families.
Not just money, but jobs, and other perks.
And the staff too. How would you know what they get? Rumors abound.


Posted by Ugly Palo Alto building, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2012 at 11:37 am

Is it going to be as ugly as everything else that's being built in Palo Alto? The new Mitchell Park library has a slightly familiar look... Of course, it looks like an IKEA store !! Not to mention the JCC... Ugly, ugly, ugly.


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm

How about paying money to fund infrastructure improvements? Water rates are increasing due to the need to upgrade the pipes. Streets are a mess, parks could use some help. All of these developments being passed by the council will only add strain to the system. But, instead of asking for funds to tackle those issues, we get a bank. Nice move. The public is receiving no benefit from this project.

And, I know that taxes are supposed to pay for any additional strain on the infrastructure, but that just isn't the case.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I've lived here almost fifty years, and I grieve for the lovely town we once had and is no more. The Cheesecake Factory and the Walgreen's Building along with what is called 'prison architecture' have destroyed the ambiance of our downtown community and beyond that, the JCC, the once-was-the Hyatt on El Camino, and the new Alma Plaza. Once we had a real downtown where we could shop. Now we drive to Mountain View or Cupertino. I am very,VERY disappointed in this Council. $$$ rules. Palo Alto is planning to build an expensive 'dog park' but considering the closing of the Baylands Interpretive Center for less money, slashing recreational classes and programs for families and children, and hiring more employees on one hand and firing on the other. There is an old saying "By their stripes and friends and political ambitions you shall know them".


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Another successful example of crony capitalism. The only council members standing up for the neighborhoods and Palo Alto residents were Holman & Schmid.

Here's what Greg Scharff told the PA Weekly when he was running for city council:

"He is also critical of the city's "planned community" (PC) zoning process -- which allows developers to build at greater densities than would otherwise be allowed in exchange for "public benefits." The process, he said, is often abused by developers."

Greg Scharff in last night's meeting said the reason he is voting for the change in zoning was he felt the building itself was a "Public Benefit".

Pat Burt & Larry Klein debated over allocating part of the ground floor space to non-profits versus making all retail. Pat Burt said that it's a difficult location for retail. If that's Pat Burt's opinion, why is he forcing retail onto that location - why not reallocate the space to parking & more office space, or just cut the building down to three stories instead of 4.

Gail Price, Sid Espinosa and Nancy Shepard were pretty much bloviating - Jim Baer & friends are campaign contributors, so we alrady knew they were in the bag for the developer.

Give you go to the City Hall garage you will notice that the city council has reserved parking spaces. They should walk the walk and give up their reserved spaces; but they will protest that they have "important meetings" so they don't have the time to search for parking like the rest of the Palo Alto residents who also have important appointments as well. But what can we expect when we keep electing people who will act like they are princes & princesses.

This November election, you all have a chance to send a message to the city council members. Let them live like all of us ordinary folk and have them find parking like the rest of us.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

"he only council members standing up for the neighborhoods and Palo Alto residents were Holman & Schmid."
Give me a break. SChmid voted against it because because he was peeved that his last minute attempt to squeeze another $1 million from the developers failed and he was castigated by his fellow council members.
Holman probably thought that the old Shell station was historic or that the new building was not "aesthetically pleasing". Remember she wants to spend $9 million on a fancy bike bridge over 101 so that drivers can see how wonderful Palo Alto is. Talk about out of touch.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

The corner tower looks pretty cool, but other then that it is an office building. A box with windows, just a square box. I would take it over a old gas station that is closed.


Posted by City Council at it's worst, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm

This is sheer bribery and chicanery, our City Council was bought!!! This over-sized edifice is like the Coliseum in ancient Rome which was built with bribery and deceit!!!


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Downtown North
on May 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

It's really hard to see how Lytton and Alma can be considered a great location for higher density when there already isn't enough parking and traffic is already congested. A parking garage could be built at a cost of $5M to $10M of which the gateway project might pay $2M. Is that $10M garage going to improve parking in downtown north or is it ONLY going to support the wonderful new gateway building? Oh... there isn't any place to put it in downtown north, it WON'T DO EITHER. I wish our city planners would stay focused on the problems rather than their own ideas of a great new pet project for Palo Alto.


Posted by OMV Resident, a resident of Mountain View
on May 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Between the quotes in the article and the message board below, critics have referred to this building as 'hugely dense', 'tall', 'large-sized', and 'over-sized edifice'.

It's a four-story building, for goodness sake! There are much, much taller buildings a few blocks up University and a few blocks over on Alma Street, that have been there for years. And do you know what? Downtown Palo Alto has not only survived, it's become more desirable (by any objective measure - office rents, residential property values, numbers of visitors) in the years since they were built.

The logic of many of the posters on this board remind me of the old Yogi Berra saying... "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."


Posted by Gail, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

This oversized project is a "gateway" in more ways than one... It opens the flood gates for more tall buildings to be built in downdown PA. We are on the verge of losing our charming, inviting and welcoming downtown. We will be left with nothing but buildings like the new ghastly Walgreens on University Avenue. We need to throw out all the bums at City Hall, and take back our city. We especially need to clean house at the Planning Dept.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Downtown North
on May 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Thank you council members Holman and Schmidt. You are the only members of the city council who stick up for the folks.


Posted by Choice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Be careful who you vote for.... you might get something you don't want.


Posted by Jan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Have you ever noticed that members of the city council have reserved parking spaces in the underground city hall parking structure? Their reserved spaces are in a prime location and are reserved 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Why do they get that perk? No wonder they don't care about the parking problems downtown. They've got their parking needs taken care of. It's time to expose all the "perks" at city hall.


Posted by Cynthia Suri, a resident of Community Center
on May 15, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I so wished I could have made the meeting to express my views about the generic and, frankly, very ugly design. With this kind of price tag, what's a few hundred thousand more to build a beautiful building??

Well, sounds like I was wise not to waste my evening attending the meeting since the City has made up its mind. Just a formality to make us think our voices are being heard.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Now that Greg Scharff has declared that " …an office building -- a Gateway project -- is itself a public benefit," every developer will be able to make that claim. Way to go, Greg, especially in light of your comments about PC zoning when you were running for city council. But I guess the city hall Kool-Aid washes away all memories of campaign promises.

Lund Smith called the project "progressive" and said it is "an example of what an urban development can provide." I guess that means that Palo Alto is now officially "urban." Good-bye suburbia. "New urbanism" is IN and all the rest of us, who like single-family homes with back yards are OUT. (I wonder if Smith lives in dense, transit-oriented housing, since he finds it so "progressive.")

"Irwin David (sic) … said it's time for Palo Alto to start charging for parking." I'm sure Dawid will want bicyclists to pay for parking, too.

Winter Dellenbach is right:"There's no one in this town who really thinks that a bank is a public benefit in exchange for this hugely dense, tall building."

Every man has his price and so does every council. Palo Alto is being sold off to the highest bidders.


Posted by Bribes and Kickbacks, a resident of Professorville
on May 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on May 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm

"This is an exciting and appropriate building for this site," Councilman Sid Espinosa said. "I'm excited to see this become a reality. This is a great day for Palo Alto."

Maybe it's a good day for Espinosa to collect a few favors from special interests for when he runs for his next office. But it's a terrible day for Palo Alto.

Neither the Planning Department nor the Council has any strategy for the city. The Comprehensive plan gathers dust on a shelf somewhere, while every PC application is its own tactical negotiation --- it's a full-employment thing for the city staff, and a complete and utter lack of leadership from the Council. Karen Holman the chops for this stuff but she's the only one. Scharff in particular is a big disappointment, because there once was hope there.

PC is too big a gun for this gang. We need to get rid of it altogether. And the Planning Department needs a Yahoo-scale reorg.


Posted by Watch the City Council, a resident of Downtown North
on May 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Point of information: Lund Smith lives in Portola Valley, where several big developers live. Maybe the other Smith lives on Coleridge.

Someone asked who is running for reelection this November:Four people.
1 Burt, 2 Espinosa, 3 Yeh, and 4 Schmid.
The first 3 voted for this project.

The others who voted for it are Scharff, Price, Klein, Shepherd


Posted by Residents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2012 at 8:19 am

This could be the start of a slippery slope.

I am very concerned that this is now setting a precedent and we will have more.

I think the size and scale of this building is not appropriate for being so close to such a busy road. The artist's impression shows an occasional car and a couple of pedestrians strolling around. The reality is that this is a busy street for cars and pedestrians, all looking and rushing to their destinations. There will be not enough space for pedestrians to pass each other comfortably and when you throw a bike or a stroller or a wheelchair into the mix, it will be a dangerous sidewalk.

Do traffic engineers ever consider volume of pedestrians as well as volume of cars?


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

I've witnessed many councils in my life in Palo Alto, but this one has to be the worst. "Off with their heads" in the next election. Who has the 'intestinal fortiude" a/k/a 'guts' to run, has the money, and has the endorsement connections? The money comes from the city's big $$ guns like Jim Baer and friends. I remember a saying in Chicago - "Vote early and vote often". Here it is "who's got the $$$ and union support"- and uneducated voters who blindly follow the endorsements including those of the press.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford
on May 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

Can any of us imagine a top-notch city of comparable size in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, or Austria, allowing a monstrosity like this to dilute the quality of life in their beloved community, and then singing its praises to the sky? I can't. There, city planning is an honorable profession of stewardship pursued by people who know their history and love their cities and try to protect their character, their charm, and their livability. To read the comments of our City Council members about this building proposal is to be brought to the verge of tears. All they do is issue hollow euphoric rhetoric without giving any reasons and at bottom cave in to the insatiable developers like Baer who want to build more and more new and bigger buildings to make more and more millions in profit. Meanwhile, the essence of this magnificent city is being eaten away, project by project. At the end of the day is not surprising, because the people who run for CC office have no background in planning, no exposure to how magnificent cities are protected, no aesthetic taste, and no courage to stand up to deep-pocked developers. They wax rhapsodic over a pedestrian glass box with a costly garage attached to it. The whole process and its effects on our precious city core is enough to make one nauseous. By the way, yesterday I criticized Sid Espinoza for some of his vacuous and gratuitous rhetoric about its being a "great day for Palo Alto" that this building was approved. But let's not forget the other Council members who heaped meaningless praise on this mega-project, including Nancy Sheperd, from whom I mistakenly expected better. She too somehow had the revelation that this project in itself was a "public benefit." Given that we have a timid and unimaginative Achitectural Review Board, the fact is that we are leaving the final vote on these city-transformative projects up to a City Council of citizens who've made their careers in fields that don't require seasoned aesthetic and social judgment and don't give them the gumption to stand up and courageously call a "turkey" a turkey. This building is indisputably mediocre architecture that will do nothing but further degrade the once identifiable visual image of Palo Alto. And it will further exacerbate the already congested traffic scene in the downtown area, especially in mornings and afternoons. I'm confident that these City Council development boosters will sleep quite well tonight because they have no clue whatsoever that bit by bit they are, through their myopic vision, promoting the progressive demise of the character and charm of the once distinctive and enviable charm of Palo Alto, California.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2012 at 11:38 am

"Can any of us imagine a top-notch city of comparable size in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, or Austria, allowing a monstrosity like this to dilute the quality of life in their beloved community, and then singing its praises to the sky? "
First of all, you are assuming that Palo is a top notch city. Second you call this new building a monstrosity. Unfortunately in Palo Alto, every building that people do not like is called a "monstrosity"--so it is like the little boy who cried wolf.
Third, you claim that it will "dilute the quality of life" in the city. Proof? There is none since the building has not been built yet. But once again, like the little boy who cried wolf, people who are against something trot out the "quality of life" argument.
WHat should have been built there or do you prefer leaving the space vacant?


Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford
on May 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

@svatoid:

1. Most Palo Alto leaders and many of its residents regard it as being a top-notch city in the 50-100K size range. That suffices for my question to make sense.

2. Calling this building a "monstrosity" is not at all like "the little boy who cried wolf." That cliche has to do with sounding the alarm falsely so often that when the wolf really arrives no one pays attention. This is the first time that I have criticized any building in Palo Alto. So much for that objection.

3. You ask for "proof" of my claim that this structure will "dilute the quality of life" in the city. Obviously one can't "prove" with Cartesian deductive clarity something that doesn't yet exist. Thanks for that. But I trust you've tried to drive in Palo Alto downtown in recent months or have tried to get to Palo Alto when coming off of El Camino. The traffic is horrendous in the evening. It was not always so. Why? Because there's more traffic! Even if this new building has parking built in, it will still attract more cars into the downtown area, leading to more congestion and more air pollution and more frazzled tempers, etc. That to me is proof enough that the quality of life in Palo Alto will be degraded by this structure and others like it, each contributing a little negative effect and in the aggregate exerting a significant downward press on that quality of life.

4. If you think that the building pictured in the story about the City Council decision to approve it is a distinguished work of architecture, then I'm sorry, we will have to agree to disagree. Does it blend in with the dominant tone and character of downtown Palo Alto? No way. Put differently, about as much as the tallest existing building on University Avenue does, i.e., not at all. It's almost like (but not quite as bad as) plopping that boring piece of late modernism in downtown Firenze, Italia. That building has nothing to do with the architectural traditions of Palo Alto. It will soon be widely perceived as an eyesore. We all know that artists' renderings tend to make buildings look better on paper than they will 'in the flesh.' Just wait.

5. What should have been built there? Obviously I don't prefer to leave the space vacant. Once the gas station went, it was an eyesore. A little pocket park there would have been fine. So would a small high-quality food market in a building that blended in with its surroundings so that Whole Foods wouldn't be the only option in the downtown area. People north of University Avenue would have appreciated it. Finally, a few more Mom and Pop stores would also have been welcome. But perhaps you prefer that Palo Alto just become populated only by franchises of nation-wide brands. I don't. Ever drive past and go into Belmont Hardware? Now that's a non-franchise store with character that is a real addition to the community.

Thanks for your skeptical comments.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Robert. Regarding your comments:

1) Are these the same leaders that you are now vilifying for approving the building? They must feel then that this building will allow PA to continue to be a top notch city

2) I was talking in general terms--everytime something is being built in the city,people trot out the "monstrosity" tag. It has and continues to be overused.

3) But the city wants people to come downtown--businesses, shopping, restaurants etc. They want the tax revenue. You cannot complain about the traffic on one hand and say you want people in downtown on the other hand (again this is a general statement--not referring to you in particular)

4) as you say we can agree to disagree on this point

5) Interesting ideas. You do not have to worry about PA being populated with franchise stores--the city has made sure that no national chain will ever want to deal with the PA process. They just build on our borders and the PA shoppers flock there.
Not sure a food market would work--Whole Foods on one side and the large Safeway in MP on the other.

Again, in general, we have the usual doom and gloom complaints (many from the usual gang of malcontents) who wan to freeze PA in a 1960's-like time capsule.


Posted by longtime resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Just wondering: Is there any way to challenge this unpopular Council decision? If this were on our voting ballot I am sure it would lose. And, just because Caltrain says that there should be more commuter-based businesses near Caltrain, we do not have to comply here and now.
Why wasn't this designed for townhouses? Needed housing, less traffic, more local shopping and they may very well use the Caltrain for commuting.
By the way, Robert of Stanford, I agree with every statement you have made regarding this subject.


Posted by local gurl, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 16, 2012 at 3:05 pm

So The Cheesecake Factory is the problem downtown? Hmmm, I thought perhaps it was the aggressive homeless about whom nothing is done . . . or the excessive rents charged by downtown landlords who forced most long-term local businesses out . . . have you looked at how many spaces are vacant downtown? Ridiculous to build out more space when so much is empty. Aren't some of those empty store fronts Jim Baer's property?


Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford
on May 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

@svatoid

re 1. These CC members have a certain notion of what makes a city dynamic and that seems to include incessant business development, building more and more dense housing, and bringing more taxes into the city coffers to enable them to do other things.

I happen to have a rather different notion of what makes a city outstanding and it's not populating it with congestion-exacerbating, architecturally mediocre buildings. It has more to do with convivial space, superb architecture, plantings, park space, distinctive shops selling with character selling quality goods, and tranquil pedestrian zones, and quality public art, among other features.

re 2. I'd be perfectly happy to cease using "monstrosity" to apply to some of the more recent buildings erected in PA. I'll just use terms like "ugly," "unsuitable," and "decidedly lacking in taste." You want examples? Check out the high rise at University and Cowper, the Cheese Factory building, and other delights.

re 3. You wrote, "But the city wants people to come downtown--businesses, shopping, restaurants etc. They want the tax revenue. You cannot complain about the traffic on one hand and say you want people in downtown on the other hand (again this is a general statement--not referring to you in particular)." There can be too much of a good thing, including people coming downtown. I trust you'd agree that letting increased tax revenue be a deciding factor in urban planning makes no sense. If the downtown area gets too congested and tawdry people are going to start staying away from the downtown area. It's going to become too much of a hassle to go there. We're on the way to that situation now, with the two hour parking limits so that people are making brief forays downtown to buy something or eat at a restaurant, but that just makes the center of the city a consumption junction. There's got to be more to a great city than that. Thank god we've got the Stanford Theater there to induce people to come and watch quality films. University Avenue should be blocked off to traffic so people could come and walk in the streets in a leisurely manner and not have to always be wary about traffic and getting a parking ticket.

re 5, you wrote, "You do not have to worry about PA being populated with franchise stores--the city has made sure that no national chain will ever want to deal with the PA process." Don't be so sure about that: CVS pharmacy, Cheesecake Factory, Walgreens, Restoration Hardware, Fidelity, Pizza My Heart, Verizon, Starbucks, etc. They're multiplying. Pretty soon places like Mills the Florist will be eliminated by the greedy landlords who own the property there and who don't care a fig about what their decisions mean for the quality of downtown Palo Alto. Worse yet, they believe that the operation of the free market will somehow magically produce a wonderful downtown center. Let's just see what happens to the space that Border's used to occupy. That was a rare space that brought people together, as did Printers Inc, and now there's nothing like that between Keplers and Mountain View.

Finally you wrote, "Again, in general, we have the usual doom and gloom complaints (many from the usual gang of malcontents) who wan to freeze PA in a 1960's-like time capsule." There's a whole spectrum of possibilities between "freezing Palo Alto in a 1960s-like time capsule" and allowing the downtown area to deteriorate like it is and be plagued with congestion. What I want is a QUALITY built environment in downtown Palo Alto, one that brings people together for more than quick purchases and meals, and the so-called "Gateway" building -- that phrase as tossed around by the developer and as touted mindlessly by the City Council is a bloody farce; what kind of a "Gateway" will that building be? In what sense? -- is not conducive to that end. It's going to help make Palo Alto more and more a place for non-residents to come, park, and buy and eat quickly and then retreat back to their quiet areas. The people who actually live in or near the downtown area are going to be squeezed more and more by the congestion and pollution and that is very sad. It has already happened in the North Beach area of San Francisco; it's been reshaped into a tourist magnet and significant parts of the area that the locals used to live in and enjoy is now increasingly irrelevant to them.

In any event, sincere best wishes to you, svatoid.


Posted by Watch the City Council, a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Svatoid apparently wasnt paying attention when the developer said at least 3 times on different occasions, "WE PLANNED A 2 STORY BUILDING but the STAFF, Emslie, Williams, all of them"..told us this was the place for a large building.
So the false choice of Nothing vs. this Monster is a false choice. Just made up out of bias and lack of information.

Here is one boy crying wolf, a beginning list of 4 large ugly buildings:
(If they weren't so big, the ugliness would not be so intrusive)
Cheesecake Factory
JCC on Charleston/Fabian
800 High Street
Walgreens ugly windows on University Ave



Posted by OMV Resident, a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I agree that the approval process for this project demonstrated that Palo Alto's Planned Community zoning is a bit of a farce. Reform is surely needed.

One simple solution would be to relax the ridiculous 50-foot height limit in this area, to something more in line with the market demand, location near Caltrain, and proximity to a world-class university. Then developers wouldn't always have to engage in horse-trading over heights and benefits with the Council.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2012 at 7:01 am

Watch the city council:

"Svatoid apparently wasnt paying attention when the developer said at least 3 times on different occasions, "WE PLANNED A 2 STORY BUILDING but the STAFF, Emslie, Williams, all of them"..told us this was the place for a large building."

So why then are people complaining that the developer is pushing large building to make more money?

"So the false choice of Nothing vs. this Monster is a false choice. Just made up out of bias and lack of information."

Obviously the space was not going to remain empty. I asked what should have been put there instead of the building.

"Here is one boy crying wolf, a beginning list of 4 large ugly buildings:
(If they weren't so big, the ugliness would not be so intrusive)
Cheesecake Factory
JCC on Charleston/Fabian
800 High Street
Walgreens ugly windows on University Ave"
And I bet you , beside for maybe the Cheesecake factory, you will find people that have no problem with the three other buildings that you mention. So what does that mean? That everyone has an opinion on what is ugly and what is not. Does that make you right?
As for the JCC, in particular, that was built in a semi-industrial zone at the edge of town. The JCC is fine. People have been whining about that for years. Time to get over it.

Robert--re point 3

Do not forget that the downtown is a downtown area--meaning business, shops, people and traffic. That is the nature of a downtown. PA wants that--people visiting shopping eating--tax dollars for our city. Otherwise where else will we get tax revenue from. That is why PA pushes "SHop Palo Alto" and "Destination Palo ALto". University will never be closed to car traffic. That would be a disaster. But let's be honest the downtown area is seen as a source of revenue for the city. I agree that the parking issue needs to be revised.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2012 at 8:34 am

What irks me is not the building itself, but that the city staff & city council pushed the developer towards a high density development which exceeded the maximum square feet allowed, and did not provide sufficient parking all to get more cash from the developer. This project doesn't follow the "Comp Plan" that the council members and city staff like to refer to when they want to disaprove a development.

Forget all the spin about "Gateway building", etc. This is a pure crony capitalism - pay money to get past the zoning laws,


Posted by Crook, a resident of Professorville
on May 18, 2012 at 9:26 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Watch the City Council, a resident of Downtown North
on May 19, 2012 at 11:28 am

Greg Scharff, real estate lawyer on the Council, may get his way. The Chamber of Commerce may actually get the subsidized office space. You know, that worthy charity, the Chamber of Commerce.
The Lunds and Jim Baer can do their buddies lots of favor$, and get lots of favor$ in return.
As common sense put it, crony capitalism.


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

Services, Dining and Shopping Downtown in Palo Alto
By Steve Levy | 16 comments | 1,985 views

Handmade truffle shop now open in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 2 comments | 1,594 views

It's the End of the World as We Know It: "Snowpiercer"
By Anita Felicelli | 0 comments | 1,353 views

The Last Grape
By Laura Stec | 12 comments | 1,141 views

Why is doing nothing so difficult?
By Sally Torbey | 5 comments | 843 views