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Guest Opinion: CON: In today's market, 62 feet is needed downtown

Original post made on Nov 16, 2012

The community is abuzz about the inviolate 50-foot height limit being breached in the AOL (Park Boulevard) and MacArthur Park (27 University Ave.) proposals. These two plans are unique situations and are entirely distinct from the downtown 50-foot height limit.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 16, 2012, 12:00 AM

Comments (9)

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Posted by George
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Let's get some facts straight. First, the 50 foot height limit isn't just a "downtown 50-foot height limit" as stated by Chop Keenan. It applies to the entire City of Palo Alto. Misstatements of fact have no place in a civil public dialog.

Second, by referring to two of the biggest development projects in Palo Alto (smaller only than Stanford Hospital expansion)as "unique situations and are entirely distinct from the downtown 50-foot height limit" he's conditioning the public to the idea that zoning code is somehow optional and should not apply when applicants don't want to comply. Furthermore, his description of two HUGE projects as "The AOL and MacArthur Park proposals" is trivializing the massive increases in height and density that are being requested for two large tracts.

The 50 foot height limit may need consideration, but it should occur as a matter of long-term planning and poly making, NOT in conjunction with a project review.


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Posted by George
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 16, 2012 at 9:07 pm

That would be "policy making" in the last sentence.


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Posted by KB
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm

News flash for Chop Keenan: it's a 50 foot height limit, not a four story limit. Can't fit a modern four story building into fifty feet? Well, I guess you'll just have to settle for three stories then. I'm not sure why the fact that a developer can't build a modern four story building in under fifty feet is our problem. Guess you'll just have to live with three stories and a smaller profit, dude! Sorry about that.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2012 at 9:54 pm

The author suggests that the areas where his clients want to exceed the existing height limit will be better places with "buildings that can be taller than three stories," but fails to say plainly why this is so. To understand, look at the world through his eyes. What he sees are dollar signs. Four floors hold one-third more dollar signs than three floors do, and, to Mr. Keenan, that looks nice.

This puff piece, with its shamanistic references to Class A LEED secret sauce nurturing sunshine-y serendipitous entrepreneurial spirit, makes no compelling argument that raising the 50-foot limit is in the public interest.

I say, make these guys PROVE that taller is better for Palo Alto. Challenge them to PROVE that more offices in these places will improve the environment, reduce crime, reduce class size in the schools, improve performance of the city budget, decrease traffic congestion, make the city more bikeable, or walkable, or affordable, or peaceful. If they can prove it, well then maybe. But they can't.


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Posted by Agree
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I have to agree with the above. I'm generally not knee-jerk anti-development. But it is hard to figure how taller buildings are somehow better for our town's well-being, while they obviously make more money for the developer. I agree with Mr. Keenan's points about higher ceilings, etc. - and the points work just as well for 3 story buildings.

If the developers cry "we can't make money" with smaller buildings - well, then it seems likely that the value of the land will drop until someone can make a fair profit.

There may be arguments for bigger buildings, but this wasn't it.


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Posted by Horselady
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

Of all people, I would think Chop Keenen could give a better argument for tall buildings. One of the reasons he can't is that his arguments are bogus.

Palo Alto is a residential city, not a big-business mecca, nor was it ever intended to be one. So stop trying to make it one. People like Chop Keenan, John Mcnellis, and John Arrillaga are ruining Palo Alto for its residents, the people for whom it was intended.


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Posted by No chop for me
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2012 at 9:40 am

Does Chop Keenan actually live here? If he does, how could he want to do something like that to the city he lives in? Arrillaga and Mc Nellis do not have to live in what they wreak, but there is a saying about not p------ in your own pond.


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Posted by No thanks
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

My ears perk up when I see a misrepresentation that favors the speaker. Calling the 27 University Arrillaga mega project the MacArthur Park, when that handsome historic building is intended to be REMOVED, is really something.
I recall one of the developers saying the 4-building office complex was really one building, because it had connections (bridges?) between them.


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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Mr. Keenan, you base your proposal for an increase in maximum building height to 62 feet in "downtown" on the benefits of higher ceilings for ground-floor retail and upstairs offices, and related benefits of more modern design.

Assuming you are referring specifically to the Downtown Commercial District, would all of the other current development standards (e.g., maximum floor area ratios, setbacks, daylight) for this district specified the municipal code remain in place?


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