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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Never let a crisis go to waste: Overloading the City Council agenda

Uploaded: Jun 14, 2020
"Never let a crisis go to waste" is one of those sayings that has conflicting interpretations. One is to force a focus on what needs to be done, especially if those actions have been neglected in favor of unimportant ones (see ^Parkinson's Law of Triviality^ aka the "Bike-shed Effect"). Another is for abusive tactic: One faction holds authorizations for crucial needed actions hostage in order to get approval of measures that couldn't get enough support under normal circumstances.

This is the situation with Palo Alto City Council now. Their final scheduled meeting before the summer break is June 29, with meetings resuming on August 3. Council has been in intensive meetings on the budget since May 4, with an extra session each week, with both the regular and special sessions each lasting 11 hours or more. Add to that the preparation time, and the diligent ones must be exhausted. Recognize that some Council members have regular full-time jobs and are not subsidized by their employer. For this, the City pays Council members a stipend of $1000/month (pre-tax). The perfect setup for abuse.

----The President Hotel conversion from housing to hotel----

A prime example is "^Reversing course, Palo Alto staff now say conversion of President Hotel is legal: City Council prepares to vote on change of apartment building into hotel downtown^" (Palo Alto Online, 2020-06-12). Many of the comments are quite informative.
Back in 2018, the developer knew that City ordinances prohibited such a conversion and that it was against widely supported City policy -- his consultant was a former high-ranking member of City Staff. He had private meetings with the developer-friendly City Staff and Council member and former-Mayor Greg Scharff about the conversion. The developer artfully claimed on the basis of those conversations that the City would approve the conversion. Boy, was he mistaken! (foot#1)

Yet again, we have a (new) City Manager and his staff supporting a developer in being exempted from City ordinances and City policy, with favorable timing for it being brought before Council. The manipulative behavior of the City Manager and his staff can be seen in their argument that being converted to a hotel "is consistent with the historic use of the property, which operated as a hotel from 1930 to 1968". Notice that 1930-1968 is 39 years, and the period when it was apartment -- 1969-2019 -- covers 51 years. For the City Manager and Staff, cherry-picking is always in season.

----Semi-approval for a large development project----

Also on the June 22 Council agenda is a "pre-screening" for a major project in the Stanford Research Park at ^3300 El Camino Real^ (SE corner of El Camino and Hansen Way). The proposal would include approximately 52,500 square feet of offices, which at a very generous 250 sqft per employee represents 210 jobs; at 150 sqft it is 350 jobs. There are also supposed to be 187 housing units, but experience is that the number of housing units gets pruned throughout the approval process.
Notice that this project would produce more jobs than housing units. One of the long-running scams has been to claim that such projects reduce the jobs-housing imbalance. How? Count only the housing units and ignore the jobs.

The ^Staff report^ (warning: part of a 53 MB download) notes that a requirement of the proposed zoning is that "the number of housing units must offset the number of net new commercial jobs that are generated by the project." (last line of the first page of the report; page 10 of the PDF). No explanation of the arithmetic.

Although the pre-screen is supposed to be only guidance to the developer as it more fully develops the project plans, it is too often abused. For example, the developer and Staff may try to portray musing by an individual Council member as all-but-official approval by the full Council.

Seemingly absurdly, the agenda for the following day -- June 23 -- includes working out the details for the proposed zoning for this development (paragraphs 3-4 of page 4 of the report; page 13 of the PDF). Yes, Council is scheduled to provide guidance on the project relative to requirements that are still being discussed.

Technical terminology is used to hide a potentially contentious issue: The needed separation distance between CPI and the housing. The Staff report identifies the issue only as "Tier 2 hazardous materials", and that the separation of 650 feet exceeds the 300 feet required by the ordinance. The danger is of releases of various toxic gases, the worse being hydrogen cyanide. My house is just within 1000 feet of a potential release and within the evacuation zone.

Big Question: What is it about this project and the associated zoning that it needs to be urgently brought before a mentally exhausted Council? I saw no explanation in the Staff report.

----Foothills Park access----

The issue of restricted access to Foothills Park has come up repeatedly and has met with substantial opposition from the community. Well, it's back. A June 7 letter urged the City to repeal the restrictions, repeating once again the arguments for this position while not addressing the arguments against it. "^'Meet this moment' : Growing coalition calls for Palo Alto to expand access to Foothills Park^" (Palo Alto Weekly, 2020-06-08). The urgency of this matter (sarcasm) is such that it is on the agenda of a special session of the City Council on June 23 as item #5.

----Continue the S/CAP Update----

Item #2 on the agenda for the June 16 special session of Council is "Direct Staff to Continue With the 2020 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) Update and Evaluate the 2020 S/CAP Potential Goals and Key Actions." It is scheduled to take an hour of Council's time. By the way, my questions to Staff about cost/effectiveness -- is the amount of carbon reduction larger than the carbon footprint of the program -- gone unanswered, and seem to still be largely unanswerable in the positive with real data, not intuitions or aspirational statements.(foot#2)

----And maybe more----

Adding a review of a highly controversial development project is being floated as an addition to a Council meeting before the July break.

----What you can do----

If you want to send an email to Council (hint, hint),
• the address is [email protected] (upper/lower case irrelevant).
• the subject line should be descriptive -- some/many Council members don't read the emails as they arrive, but bunch them together as a topic and read them as a group to get a better sense of the various perspectives.
• have your major points in the first paragraph or two. If you want to write something longer, those paragraphs need to be an executive summary.

Note: Any email to Council is a public record, so don't include personal information, such as phone number, or minor children's names. Similarly, for your home address, you can omit the house number.

If you are writing about a specific item on an upcoming agenda, prefix the subject line with the date of the Council meeting, its item number and an approximate version of the item's title (in case the numberings change).
The ^City Home Page^ currently includes links to the "Agenda and Packet" for upcoming meetings.
Be warned that this can be a very, very, very big file: For example, the one for June 22 is a PDF of 2429 pages consuming 53 MB, which could be a significant chunk of your monthly cellular data allowance. Previously, you could be able to download only the agenda itself -- typical 2-3 pages -- but I couldn't find this on the re-designed website.

The President Hotel conversion is on the June 22 agenda as item #33 "488 University Avenue" -- items 4-30 are supposedly non-controversial and are to be voted on as a block (the "Consent Calendar").
The project pre-screening is also on the June 22 agenda as item #2 "Study Session: 3300 El Camino Real".

----Commenters please note - drafts may disappear----

If you are writing a comment that you can't easily reproduce, I strongly suggest that you draft it in another app and then cut-and-paste it into the comment box below.
Reason: The browser settings for security/privacy, do-not-track, and ad-blocking can cause the website software to discard your comment when you click "Submit". The PAOnline website administrator has looked for such disappeared ads and cannot find them in the records. I have been able to reproduce this problem. Unfortunately, browser updates sometimes change the default settings for the potential causes, so the problem may suddenly appear.
The current problem I know of is in the Firefox browser in the setting for "Enhanced tracking protection for this site". If it is ON, comments disappear. The setting can be changed with the shield icon on the left side of the address bar. However, changing it after you have started a comment will cause what you have already entered to disappear.
Argh!!!

----Footnotes----
1. "^Documents reveal secret dealings over President Hotel: Using tenants as leverage, developer pushes to speed city approvals^" (Palo Alto Weekly, 2018-11-30).

2. S/CAP: cost/benefit?
• In my 2016-05-05 blog ("^City Council & School Board: Leaders, Overseers, Technocrats or Advocates?^"), I wrote "at a meeting earlier this year, the City's Chief Sustainability Officer Gil Friend stated that City Hall had 'hundreds of sustainability initiatives'. I asked how one could manage so many programs and assess their effectiveness, and his response was that it was done with normal management reviews. I am highly skeptical."
• My blog "^Sustainability: Better management needed^", 2017-06-05.
• Sherry Listgarten's blog "^The Gulf between Climate Plan and Climate Results^", 2020-04-19.


----
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The ^Guidelines^ for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
A slur is not an argument. Neither are other forms of vilification of other participants.

If you behave like a ^Troll^, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 7:56 am

To the two big items mentioned ny answers is NO! It is a very resounding NO! Do not even think of going there. These items have been settled by the voters over numerous votes as the developer has pushed his view again and again, ad infinitum.
The President should stay as lower cost housing. It is in the perfect place for low cost housing--downtown with access to all needs, including transportation, both rail and bus. We do not need nor want a big hotel in that location to mess up traffic.
Keep the "President Hotel" as it has been for most of its years: housing. You keep crying for more low income housing. Well put the money where your speech is--keep the President "Hotel" as housing.
Foothills Park has been open to residents of Palo Alto only since its opening. It should remain that way. Palo Alto residents paid for the park. All the surrounding cities refused to help, thus they were not included. Outsiders can enter as guests of Palo Alto residents.
The last time I was there, the Park needed some significant clean up. I think that should be taken care of first. Then we must provide a way for the Park to be open to residents during the regular hours of restoration. The last time I visited it the main entry from Page Mill Road was closed with no explanation or notice. It was about 10 am on a weekday. I could not get in to park.
The Park must remain residents only.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Tammi Perguot, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 8:19 am

The city should be focused on controlling the spread of coronavirus, economic recovery, city budget and police reform! nothing else.

The should defer all non-essential capital infrastructure projects and return funding to community services and public safety.

So, who sets the agenda? The mayor? or the city manager?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 8:38 am

One thing I would like to question you on, when you say don't use personal information in an email as it is public record. I was under the impression that the Council only takes heed of a resident's concern when they have the name and address of the resident. Therefore, an anonymous email may not be heeded as much as one that contains name and street address.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

[[Blogger: The warning I included came from the City's website. I updated the original passage to note that one could omit the house number from the home address.]]


 +   6 people like this
Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 12:22 pm

"So, who sets the agenda? The mayor? or the city manager?

My understanding is that the agenda is the result of a collaboration between the city manager and the mayor, in this case Adrian Fine.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 2:10 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Well-said, as usual.

I suppose the intent for 3300 El Camino is that more than one person would reside in each of the housing units. The average for the county is somewhat over 2 people per unit, so it's possible that this project could be jobs/housing neutral. But there's a lot of variation depending on exactly where and how and when you count, so I'd like to see a lot more evidence before I'd feel comfortable that the balance will be met and maintained in the future.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

^^
The staff report states that the ratio is between net new jobs and housing units:
"the number of housing units must offset the number of net new commercial jobs that are generated by the project."
This could be a sloppy statement of what you suggested: expected adult occupants of housing units vs. jobs. If so, I didn't find the number of expected occupants in the report.

Additional info: The housing building is listed as 180K sqft. That works out to an average 962 sqft per unit, but that is before allocating space for hallways, stairways, and other common spaces. And some parking?? What would be the actual space for an average apartment? roughly 800 sqft? Maybe less? Or maybe there could be some much larger apartments and some much smaller, which might reduce a simple calculation of 2 adults per apartment.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 9:28 pm

Jeremy is a registered user.

Just want to point out that there is no Council meeting on June 29.

Also, an important item on tomorrow night's (June 15) meeting that has gotten little press is the discussion of the Cubberley Community Center lease. It's currently second-to-last on the agenda. City staff seem to be trying to pull a fait accompli on this by having sent the lease to the School Board and eviction notices to tenants before sending the lease to the Council.

Additionally, you can still find the agendas without the packets at Web Link

Most meetings have a link for "Agenda and Packet" and another for "Packet Page Numbers."

"Agenda and Packet" is actually the Agenda WITHOUT the packet, and "Packet Page Numbers" is the Agenda WITH the packet.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 9:43 pm

"The manipulative behavior of the City Manager and his staff can be seen in their argument that being converted to a hotel "is consistent with the historic use of the property, which operated as a hotel from 1930 to 1968". Notice that 1930-1968 is 39 years, and the period when it was apartment -- 1969-2019 -- covers 51 years. For the City Manager and Staff, cherry-picking is always in season."

For our Department of Planning(?), existing aberrations in the current environment are regarded as defining the environment and warranting new deviations. And prior abominations justify new atrocities.

Bottom line: building buildings builds resumes.

The city council can be amazingly easily fooled by these subterfuges, verging on being eagerly gullible at times. But surely this isn't news to any seasoned observer.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 10:23 pm

The city will walk into a big-time expensive law suit if they try to block the President Hotel. Not a good return on investment when they are likely to lose.

Even if the Hotel is blocked, who is going to pay to make it habitable for residences? If it is to be affordable housing, the rents will not pay for the improvements.

If it is does not become a hotel, the building will remain a decrepit degrading building until the owner gets its way. Sorry, but that is reality, not Palo Alto dreaming.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Do the people commenting here realize that 3300 El Camino is zoned for Research Park?

Under current zoning, the builder does not have to build any housing on the site.
It can build all office; what will that do to your jobs/housing balance?

More Palo Alto dreamers detached from reality. Can we please have some comments grounded in reality here?

There was all this work put into the comprehensive plan, but the people in reality don't want any improvements in the city. Without investment, the physical capital of the city will continue to degrade.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 11:02 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Chris,
Warning: your comments are close to the threshold for being deleted.
1. They are hostile and scolding, which discourages discussion.
2. They make assertions that don't provide information that would allow discussion.
3. They seriously misrepresent the perspectives of previous comments, for example, "More Palo Alto dreamers detached from reality ... people in reality don't want any improvements in the city." This is a major violation of the guidelines.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Peter Marcus, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 11:18 pm

Come on, Doug. Chris does raise some valid points. Why not respond to them?


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 14, 2020 at 11:41 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

^^
This blog is not about the merits/problems of the project, but rather about the abuse of process intended to produce a fair result. The details are limited to what was needed to demonstrate that this is a legitimate concern.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Boho, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jun 16, 2020 at 10:30 am

Boho is a registered user.

City Councils often add rules for building large scale projects in order to shake-down developers into providing amenities in exchange for approval to circumvent their rule. Smart developers know how the game is played.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 16, 2020 at 2:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

^^
For large-scale projects in Palo Alto, the primary rules in this regard are requirements for a percentage of BMR (Below Market Rate) units in larger housing project and the percent-for-art rule.
The percent-for-art rule codifies what are established good design practices that were being ignored, with the "remedy" to this abuse by the developer being abused by the government.
The BMR rule was a result of it becoming increasingly hard to preserve and create affordable housing.

In Palo Alto, the normal practice is for developers is to propose projects that are extravagantly beyond what the ordinances allow, then prune it back to excessive to claim that they have "compromised" and should be allowed to build that. A favor mechanism was what was then called PC (Planned Community) Zoning where the developer would propose small "Public Benefits" ("amenities") in exchange for large exceptions. Those Public Benefits would decrease or disappear during the approval process, the construction process, or shortly after completion.

I would hardly call this a "shake-down".


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 16, 2020 at 11:22 pm

The lack of transparency of Mayor Adrian Fine, who hides behind excuses and pretension of being inexperienced and young, is something a city such as Palo Alto should not tolerate.

Ed Shakida has worked many years on the city of Palo Alto Staff. The 2 set the city council agenda and the purposeful overloading of the agenda to pass through items of their own desires is hurtful to what was a wonderful city to live in.

The 2 are doing their best to ensure community services to seniors, families, children and teenagers are cut. Then they allow business developers to skip all sorts of city building ordinances.

When they are called out on their gaffes, Mayor Adrian Fine pretends he didn't know better and points to Shakida.

Shakida then quietly just let things roll of, knowing he is not a voted in elected official and knowing his position and job is protected.

It's time Palo alto City council reassess each and everyone of the top 20 paid (compensated) city of Palo Alto employees and wonder whether their salaries are justified. Think back to the 8:30 pm 10 day curfew instituted with Mayor Adrian Fine's approval. Idea of Ed Shakida. Where was the city Attorney when curfew was being though of? Fully supported by Adrian Fine.

Web Link
public knowledge of their salaries

Ed Shakida, whose total compensation last year was $569,799.60
Molly Stump, city Attorney, whose total compensation last year was $460,604.29

Who is representing us, the residents of Palo Alto?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Randy P, a resident of Monroe Park,
on Jun 18, 2020 at 11:35 am

Randy P is a registered user.

Doug,
I'd ask that if you are going to make a statement such as: "In Palo Alto, the normal practice is for developers is [sic] to propose projects that are extravagantly beyond what the ordinances allow, then prune it back to excessive to claim that they have "compromised" and should be allowed to build that", you provide some actual examples. See your #2 response to Chris above. I have been working in Palo Alto for most of my career and do not find what you suggest to be the normal practice in any way. I encourage those I interact with to which are fully compliant, not extravagant and retracting to excessive. I'd like to have you explain your assertions more clearly so we can all understand your point.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Douglas, Thank you. Thank you.

The President Hotel situation is abominable. Chicago-based real estate investor buys apartment building named "Hotel" for residential-use price (often half the price of commercial use), hires as many city-related people as "consultants" -- including, apparently, some that chicago investor evicted from residence. And now investor tries to bully our city government into giving investor the conversion for no logical or legal reason. Is the city manager another one of investor's highly paid consultants? At this point, nothing would surprise me.

The 3300 El Camino Project is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. As you know, one of the biggest and worst Superfund sites in the country lies right there in Stanford Research Park: the "HP Superfund Site" (Please note: HP STILL does not pay a dime in taxes to Palo Alto! But they should, and they will.)

Here is an article about the history of SRP and the Superfund site that might be of interest to others here:

Web Link

To the commenter above who noted that the site is not "zoned" for housing, I want to straighten something out. From a governance perspective, it's EASY to switch zoning to housing from commercial in the context of the huge imbalance we fact now, and with the state breathing down our neck with SB-35, waiting to come in and make decisions for us, if we don't build our required housing already. (Housing development actually IS an urgent matter right now.)

Anyone who drives or walks through the SRP neighborhood cannot help but see numerous commercial real estate "for rent" signs -- including at HP's former 300,000 square foot campus. (Again query given all the for rent signs why we need new office space.)

Looking at those beautiful, green lots with running paths and exercise equipment, why these large, open, green spaces -- spaces that have room for hundreds of single family homes, even more townhouses or apartment buildings -- can't be converted to residential use.

The answer is not "zoning." We know from Stanford's GUP that Stanford desperately wants more housing. The proposed GUP contained pages and pages of different kinds of housing. Stanford owns this land. Stanford actually would save money if it could repurpose the land for housing. And maybe we could work something out to share some of that land with Stanford -- Stanford builds some housing, we build other housing. Please note: no office space involved. We don't need office space. If we could put affordable, medium, and possible even high end housing in those rolling hills, we could avoid dealing with a higher-density override interfering with the quality of life in our most quiet residential neighborhoods, and we also can avoid piling more high rises on El Camino, which would be less pleasant both for our city generally and for the people living in the high rises, when they could have a townhouse in green space.

Anyway, ... as far as I can tell, the real roadblock to housing on Stanford Research Park is the huge SUPERFUND SITE. This Superfund site has been around for decades -- and no one -- not Palo Alto, not the EPA, not Stanford -- has made the polluters (HP) clean it up. (Stanford I believe has tried -- and if they succeed, as I am guessing they will, they are likely to get the damages instead of us, despite the way that Superfund sites rarely keep their toxicity within their boundaries). Web Link

Given the toxicity in the water, and the ever-present risk potentially caused by the toxic plume, it can be complicated to build housing on top of a Superfund site (that said, low income housing ends up going there regardless, unfortunately). But also it's generally a TERRIBLE idea to dig down into the polluted ground when doing anything on a Superfund site, which apparently is exactly what the 3300 El Camino project plans to do.

So where exactly does the developer at 3300 El Camino plan to put their proposed housing?

The underground garage and other underground construction is particularly unsettling. Last I heard at the Planning Commission meeting, the developer was claiming (with city staff and the commission predictably nodding along), that the garage might PIERCE the TOXIC PLUME, but really, it probably won't, and if it does, that won't be a problem, etc.. This was one of the many times that a person listening and following along would wish there were a 911 button to call ... not the planning commission, not the city council, not the city manager, for cat's sake, ... the EPA? Is there anyone at the EPA these days?

I am not an environmental engineer. I'm sure that this is a complicated analysis. So, shouldn't we slow down a bit before approving another unnecessary office development, this one actually designed to be closer to the "toxic plume" than any development before it?

Here's the EPA website.

Web Link

I can't be the only person who does not find reassuring to read that the City of Palo Alto will "review" construction "to protect site users from potential vapor intrusion hazards." So, where exactly is the "review" about those "vapors?" I would imagine that reviewing hazardous vapors is not something that can happen during these lengthy "tedious" (per Mayor Fine) city council meetings.

How about this short-term solution? (I enjoy pragmatism too!) Maybe the many corporate tenants having office-need emergencies (despite the lockdown) can move in temporarily in one of the offices amongst the half-million square feet of available space in and near the SRP? Eg HP's vacated 300,000 square feet of office space, or the nearby empty Varian and other mega-corporation vacant office space. I'm guessing that even Mayor Fine's employer, Ford Motor Company, may have some empty space near its office near SRP. It would make much more sense to use up all the Superfund high-toxicity sites for businesses rather than invite residents to live there (including that we should not have low income residents live on Superfund sites either!). Or better: we need to force the polluters to clean it up.

This crazy-making situation is one of the many reasons that I advocate for a FIRM STOP - A FIRM 100% NO EXCEPTIONS STOP on all additional office space projects. If developers want to build on their Palo Alto land, they can build homes. If the land needs to be detoxified first, get it detoxified.

It's quite amazing what all of a sudden "developers will want to do" (the most common argument given at planning commission meetings) when they are only allowed to do one thing. We don't work for the developers. They work for us.

Thank you again Douglas for your fantastic editorial. Let's hope that the CC listens to you (although odds may be against that).


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Off topic???, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jun 19, 2020 at 11:39 am

I am surprised that you have not edited or removed the comments by resident and Rebecca eisenberg, they are clearly off topic and rebeccas comments sound like campaign talking points.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by mjc, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 19, 2020 at 2:09 pm

@ Randy P

"In Palo Alto, the normal practice is for developers is [sic] to propose projects that are extravagantly beyond what the ordinances allow, then prune it back to excessive to claim that they have "compromised" and should be allowed to build that", you provide some actual examples.

Let me enlighten you. The last PC was the College Terrace Centre. Rather foolishly the city agreed to the developer's quid pro quo proposal that instead of the 13K sq ft of office permitted by the existing zoning, the city would change the zoning to PC to permit him to build 39K sq ft of first class office space. In return the developer proposed he would permanently maintain an operating grocery store on site. However, as might be predicted, the owner has now filed a lawsuit to remove the public benefit requirement that he maintain the agreed upon 8K sq ft operating market.

The previous PC, the Edgewood Plaza, the only existing shopping center built by Eichler, like the College Terrace Centre also had an existing grocery store on the property. The new owner of the Edgewood property also applied to remove all the existing buildings and construct a much denser development than the zoning allowed. The city agreed to the developer's proposal on condition that as the "Public Benefit" for the excess construction the existing Eichler market building be retained and continue to operate as a grocery store. But, can you guess what happened? Ooops, "by mistake" the Eichler market was bulldozed. However, the city continued to require the developer provide space for a similar size on-site market as the agreed upon public benefit in return for his excess development. Now I read that the owner of the Edgewood Plaza is also suing to remove the requirement they maintain a grocery store on site as the public benefit requirement.

Of course, my absolute favorite is the development behind the North County Court House where the developer was allowed excess construction over the existing zoning amount and in return agreed to a public plaza. It didn't take long for the owner's relatives to open a restaurant in the building and use the entire "public" plaza for their private outdoor seating.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by mjc, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 19, 2020 at 2:15 pm

PS

The College Terrace Centre developer proposed a larger development plan than the one that was originally proposed. Over several years he presented plans to the PTC, but was told on each occasion it was too large and return with a smaller footprint. On each occasion he removed a few hundred square feet, re-jiggled the plan, and re-applied. After several years, and after the final PTC rejection, he stamped his foot and said it wasn't fair that he had had to spend so much time changing his plan and appealed to the council. Who approved it.


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