Downtown denizens split over proposed development | News | Palo Alto Online |


Downtown denizens split over proposed development

Palo Alto officials set to consider appeal of 429 University Ave.

In order for all area residents to have important local information on the coronavirus health emergency, Palo Alto Online has lifted its pay meter and is providing unlimited access to its website. We need your support to continue our important work. Please join your neighbors and become a subscribing member today.

Depending on which side of Palo Alto's growth debate you stand on, the development proposed for 429 University Ave. is either a long-awaited, thoroughly vetted and highly desirable improvement to one of downtown Palo Alto's most prominent corners or an out-of-scale, under-parked traffic hazard in the making.

On Monday night, the City Council is set to consider both points of view when it votes on resident Michael Harbour's appeal of the recently approved project. In some ways, the project perfectly epitomizes the ongoing community conversation about how much office growth downtown can accommodate. Randy Popp, chair of the Architectural Review Board, called the proposal "polarizing" during the board's Feb. 19 meeting on the project, which culminated in a 4-0 vote to support. Since then, dozens of residents have submitted letters expressing both sides of the argument.

For supporters, like Realtor Sam Arsan, the existing buildings are old, have failing mechanical systems and need to be replaced "to keep the city vibrant." Lisa Haley, owner of the nearby yoga studio, Be Yoga, said she had some concerns about the traffic flow on Kipling Street but noted in a letter last year that she is "thrilled at the idea of a new building" and "excited about this development."

For opponents like Harbour and residents with slow-growth leanings, the idea of a four-story building with a modernist, glassy design going up on a block filled with Victorian houses is the latest sign of the city's downtown growth policies gone astray. The attitude was perfectly encapsulated by Lytton Avenue resident Becky Baer, who bemoaned in a letter to the council the "alarming transformation of our beloved downtown area" and called the proposal "another nail in the coffin."

In the appeal, Harbour argues that the four-story building's size and scale will "overwhelm the adjacent and existing structures" and that its style is incompatible with the Victorian buildings on the Kipling Street block near the new development. The new building, he notes in his appeal, would bring 7,000 square feet of retail to the site while displacing two stores -- including longtime boutique Shady Lane -- that occuppied about 9,000 square feet between them. The parking requirements, he wrote, are insufficient, and the traffic conditions will be dangerous because of the narrow nature of Kipling.

Yet for Elizabeth Wong, the property owner, the project is a culmination of two years of work, four Architectural Review Board meetings and countless design revisions. Earlier this year, she agreed to relocate the building's stair and elevator shafts; set the balconies on the second and third floors further back; and relocate the public art from the building's lobby to an exterior wall facing Kipling. The project meets all zoning regulations.

City planners are recommending that the council on Monday uphold the project's approval by voting on it without debate or discussion.

Wong said many criticisms that have been levied by opponents of the project are off base. The loss of retail, for example, is a direct result of her including in the new building a garage with a ramp, an emergency exit and stairs, as per the city's requirement. Though the topic of offices displacing retail establishment has been a hot one during recent council discussions, in this case the retail space is not making way for offices as opponents imply but for required garage infrastructure.

"Those items -- the ramp exit, the emergency exit and the stairs -- reduced the size of the retail space, but none went to proper office use and none of it was at our election," Wong told the Weekly. "We were required by code to put all those things in."

She suggested an alternate way to bring retail to the downtown area: requiring Harbour's property at 421-23 Kipling St. to have retail on the ground floor.

Parking is another issue of dispute. Normally, a project of this sort would be required to provide 92 parking spaces. But because the two current University Avenue buildings paid parking assessment fees rather than provide the spaces, the requirement drops by 37 spaces, to 55. In addition, the development uses a mechanism called "transfer of development rights" to reduce the requirement by another 20 spaces, to 35. The mechanism relies on building rights (along with parking exemptions) granted to developers who rehabilitate and seismically retrofit historic buildings.

The issue of parking is always a sore subject in downtown's residential neighborhoods, which are still awaiting the launch of a planned residential parking program. Though the City Council has recently revised several parking regulations to beef up the requirements, residents in congested areas like Downtown North and Professorville are understandably frustrated when they see a development's parking requirement go from 92 spaces to 35.

The fact that the building's underground garage would provide 40 spaces did little to assuage the opponents concerns. In his appeal, Harbour argues that the garage will "create more problems than it solves." This is largely because it will force outbound cars to turn on Kipling, which is currently "so narrow that it is barely possible for two cars to travel past one another when cars are parked along both sides of the street," he wrote in the appeal.

But Wong rejects any notion that her project is skirting parking regulations. For her, the math is simple. She is required to provide 35 spaces. She is providing 40.

"We have five spaces more than is required," Wong said.

In approving the project, the architecture panel expressed some concerns about the area's traffic flow but ultimately concluded that the project followed all the rules and should be approved.

"Yeah, it's a narrow street. Yeah, it's got a different character. But the zoning contemplates all of this, and it's in place, and you've followed it," Popp said at the conclusion of the board meeting. "You've complied."

The appeal of 429 University Ave. is just the latest in a series of appeals filed by residents against nearby development proposals. In December 2013, the council considered and ultimately rejected appeals of two modernist, mixed-use, multi-story developments. Both 240 Hamilton Ave. and 636 Waverley St. were designed by Ken Hayes, the architect behind 429 University. More recently, the council considered several "individual review" appeals from residents who opposed the construction of new single-family dwellings in their neighborhood. On Feb. 25, the council rejected an appeal from residents of Corina Way who protested the construction of a two-story home. Two other appeals, for new homes at Metro Circle and Richardson Court, were settled by the applicant and the appellant before they got to a council hearing.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?


22 people like this
Posted by Misleading renderings
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:51 am

I don't have an opinion about this project but I do have one about the renderings.

The first one makes it look like there is a massive amount of room on the street and across from the building - the differences in sizes of the people on the opposite sidewalk make it seem like the sidewalk is about 50 feet wide.

The second one fails to show the small scale of Kipling - it takes a very narrow alleyway and a neighbors yard and turns it into a plaza.

Here is what is really across from the project: Web Link

These give a misleading feel for the scale of the building AND increase the mistrust of those concerned about it.

The Weekly should have a policy of a verifying the basic verisimilitude of "renderings", especially those prepared by project sponsor before putting them online, which gives them a certain credibility, even if there is a note that says they were provided by the owner.

22 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:19 am

The Dailey News has a good article about this project.
The concept of a mixed use property I think is leading to great problems regarding security. People in each of the type functions - commercial, business, residential each need security given the location of the project. Residents cannot have people on the property at all times who are not residents. Who wants twenty-four noise level and buzzing activity for a residential unit? Same for businesses.

We are attracting businesses that require 24 hour available space and maximum security during product development. I can see commercial on the ground floor like a hotel - but we are not talking great many floors here - only four floors.

The building is ugly and limited parking space. How did we get talked into the concept of mixed use buildings when we are also requesting a limitation on number of floors?

Read the police blotter in the paper - problems with stolen property - bikes - break-ins, assaults, car damage in garages. As we increase the population we also increase the variations on crime problems.
The big issues here are security for each on the type occupants, ugly design, and lack of parking. WHO thinks this up? Why does this get the green light from the architectural board?

36 people like this
Posted by abu dabi
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:24 am

Soon Palo Alto will have lost the very ambience that Palo Altans and visitors found so charming about Palo Alto. 429 University is the not the last nail in the coffin, it is just one of the nails that are going to ensure the destruction of this once sweet downtown. Downtown Palo Alto will look like Beijing, Shanghai, Lang Fang etc. Cities that have grown to disarming proportions and ugliness with zero input from the displaced and dismissed. The people of Palo Alto seemed to be clear on their wish to limit office space and maintain retail. Putting in elevators, parking spaces, stairs, etc. in lieu of individually owned shops is not diminishing office space. Those detriments add to the demise. Are the city planners on the take? Is the city council too weak to make decisions to maintain Palo Alto's charm? Palo Altans travel to Europe and around the globe to have a first-hand account of ancient Rome, the characteristic Parisian boulevards, the ruins of Latin America, yet our city council and planning board have no compunction about destroying our once lovely downtown for the profit of moneyed people with no taste.

14 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

Here's a thought. Hold the size of the structure to what you can park beneath it. Retain as much ground retail as possible.

22 people like this
Posted by Barb
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Thank you, abu dabi.

Your comment is so right on! I don't like what this City has become, and the growth(?)seems to be endless. There is absolutely no way one could compare Palo Alto with Florence, Venice, Paris, the ambience, outdoor cafes, etc. If one chooses to stay in Palo Alto, one can look forward to a Shanghai look-alike before too long. Yuck!

25 people like this
Posted by margaret
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2015 at 1:50 pm

fire the city planners already...another greedy disaster of scale and egregious ugliness to outsource into our village

are we so powerless against this invasion of endless boxes of steel concrete and glass from a very bad period of modern architecture...this isn't new York or taiwan...yuk

19 people like this
Posted by Really
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 3, 2015 at 2:29 pm

One way to cut back on over development and ugly buildings is to,have a law/ruling that no member of any commission or board can do any work or have any vote at any time or receive any financial benefit of any kind from any of the projects they approveR.

23 people like this
Posted by paly mom
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Really ugly. [Portion removed.] Bring back Palo Alto's character.

5 people like this
Posted by charachter
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:35 pm

what exactly is Palo Alto's character? Which buildings would you like to see more of?

19 people like this
Posted by Good faith and respect
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

The rallying cry of the residentialist candidates was that there shouldn't be special exemptions - that we should make all buildings meet the zoning requirements. It sounds like this building has gone above and beyond to meet code and provide more parking than is required.

If people want to eliminate the credits for rehabilitating old buildings, that's not a crazy idea, but we can't just change the rules two years in after this woman has been relying on them and following the process in good faith.

If people want her to have underground parking, but then complain because the ramp for that parking reduces the amount of retail that the building provides, it's sounds like we've moved beyond wanting to respect the zoning code and towards a generalized opposition to all development.

But I don't want to live in the Palo Alto of the 1940s or the 1960s or the 1980s or even the 2000s (again). I think University Ave is the best downtown on the Peninsula, and so do all the people who I see walking the streets every day and all the people fighting to live nearby. Why should we think that what we have today is perfect and special and needs to be frozen in amber? Our downtown should be alive... and all living organisms need to change and grow with the times.

8 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Carol Gilbert - the problem is the city already took money in exchange for the parking requirements for the property. Now, the developer is unfortunately off the hook for fully parking the building. It is really annoying and frustrating, and the fault of the city council. The best we can hope for is to stop it from happening again in the future.

23 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 3, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Ugliest building yet. [Portion removed.]

What are you thinking Palo Alto????

16 people like this
Posted by Let's get the facts
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 5:38 pm

First of all this building does NOT meet all zoning regulations as stated in the article. It appears to meet the quantitative ordinances as interpreted by the architect. It does not meet the Palo Alto context ordinance. And its true impacts are NOT mitigated. That is enough for council to deny the project.

While using "paper parking" and TDRs may met the letter of our quantitative ordinances, those are not valid for assessing the environmental impacts. Real parking spaces and real occupancy assumptions need to be used to assess the environmental impact. That's the law. And this building clearly fails on those fronts.

It causes a loss of retail and should be required to maintain the amount of retail even if it means using some of the second floor. And it has a cafeteria which means it will be an enclave that doesn't support our downtown restaurants. We need to stop allowing corporate users to use our downtown as an office park. It benefits no one but the companies that can afford it.

Our mixed use is way out of balance. This building clearly creates a substantial imbalance between new jobs and new housing.

17 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 6:29 pm

For supporters, like Realtor Sam Arsan, the existing buildings are old, have failing mechanical systems and need to be replaced "to keep the city vibrant."
We don't need a VIBRANT CITY, we need parking. The last 3 times I went to lunch in Palo Alto I did not find any parking and after about 20 minutes went down to Mtn. View to eat.
We need parking and safety in downtown Palo Alto, not more eyesore building. Cancel this eyesore now.

18 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:26 pm

For me, that proposed building is very painful visually. It's too aggressive and clearly out of scale with the pleasant and historic spirit of University Avenue. It has the appearance of a kind of "bully" building with the Wall Street aesthetic written all over it. It appears as if someone just dropped the thing out of the sky, dismissive of it's surroundings. I was completely enchanted with Palo Alto after having moved here many years ago. It was as if downtown had been preserved from most of all the other soulless "development" having witnessed in many other parts of the country. I'm not against building new buildings if there is need; however, without recognition of your history or the history in which you build a building, a community becomes impoverished.

1 person likes this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Jerry99 - I drive downtown several times a week, and I've always found parking in the first garage I pull into, no matter which one. Were you looking in the garages or just at street parking? I highly recommend going straight for the garages - no circling and you get a short, pleasant walk.

18 people like this
Posted by wrong time -wrong place
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 10:36 pm

This is the wrong time and the wrong place for this building in every
respect you can think of. Wrong time in that it is a deep excavation which
could require dewatering days after the Governor again reiterated the
extreme unprecedented water emergency we are facing. And it is the wrong
time also because it follows a long line of projects which have created
parking spillover into neighborhoods and traffic gridlock and unsafe
streets and a slew of impacts which are piling up and completely transforming the City. There is no access to support this size project and it has no design relationship to its surroundings. I believe there are several beautiful large street trees on the Kipling side which would be cut down. This City needs to respond to the crisis it is facing, which is
a crisis of government at its core, and reset.

8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2015 at 6:39 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Good faith and respect, according to your logic, Florence, Rome, Paris, Jerusalem, Cusco, etc, have nothing special going for them should become ever more vibrant and alive and get rid of all that makes them what they are. They should perhaps become more like Hong Kong? How about replacing the Wailing Wall in Old Jerusalem with a Mcdonald's and an office building and the Ufizzi with a night club?

13 people like this
Posted by Good faith and respect
a resident of University South
on Apr 4, 2015 at 8:59 am

Mauricio - Central Paris is almost entirely four-story buildings with parks and monuments - no setbacks, just continuous building facades. Paris is a beautiful city. I think Palo Alto could do worse than to aspire to be Paris.

The building at this site is fine. But it's hardly the equivalent of central Paris. And Palo Alto is also full of five, eight, and ten story buildings that were built in the 30s, 60s, and 70s before it became illegal. Today, those are as defining of the character of downtown Palo Alto as the others. I'm not saying we should build more ten-story buildings downtown by any means - I'm just saying you have to look at the context of the whole neighborhood.

Downtown is not Barron Park, and we shouldn't be trying to turn it into Barron Park. Most of the residents of downtown live in buildings that are four stories or higher. Just as we aren't putting four-story buildings in Barron Park, we shouldn't require every building in downtown to be one or two stories. That not what the residents of downtown wantt. If you want that, you can get that anywhere else in Palo Alto.

But the key thing is that Palo Alto has a code and this building followed it. We shouldnt change the rules of the game at the eleventh hour when people are following those rules in good faith.

9 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2015 at 9:21 am

There are other comments on this topic in the blog section. It was brought up that the eating "retail" will be a cafeteria for the business people who work in the building. So no cute restaurant for people who are walking the MAIN STREET of the city.

This design and features may be okay for some other section of the city but we are talking the MAIN STREET of the city which should be a showcase building with a cute restaurant / businesses that draws people in. There is nothing about this building that draws people in and the "retail" is highly questionable as to who is going to be able to use it.

The city needs to re-think what is going on the main street of the city - that is our face to people. Maybe this building can fill a hole on El Camino in the area between Oregon Expressway and Charleston - many one story very old buildings in that area.

Oh wait - those buildings have been there forever and the tax assessment value must be very old - so who owns those old buildings. That area is being ignored for some strange reason. Politics must be in play for that area that needs to be upgraded.

Also the water argument is good - get this set-up on higher ground tht does not have that problem.

10 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Good faith and respect --

Please do not tell us what the residents of downtown want. With all due respect, I am a resident of downtown (half a block off University) and you do not speak for me.

Of course, I speak only for myself. When I chose to buy my home, I did not choose to live in the midst of an ugly office park. Unfortunately, that seems to be the current downtown direction.

One of the many reasons that Paris is so beautiful is that they have banished the large modern office buildings to La Defense, a business park on the outskirts of town. This is called city planning.

6 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ abitarian

I, too, live downtown and we enjoy living here. We made our choice knowing what downtown was like and have not been disappointed. So you do not speak for me.

But the broader issue is that many posters do not speak for respect for the law and fair process.

It really does not matter if you like the building or not. The applicant followed the law with regard to size, parking and design. If I do not like where you live, that does not give me the right to throw you out or tear down your home.

I would hope all the residents of downtown share a respect for the law. Palo Alto's downtown is adding a number of taller buildings as are downtowns up and down the peninsula. They all, as this building did, go through an extensive review process with multiple public hearings.

That process did not produce a result that you like but it did produce a result in accordance with law and fair process.

Are you arguing to toss zoning and rules aside and have a citizen vote on every new building or redevelopment to see what they "like". Should we also vote on whether residents "like" having gay residents live in Palo Alto? Where does it end when you toss out the law?

19 people like this
Posted by Cheryl LIlienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I attended one of the ARB meetings about this. ONLY ONE member of the ARB called out the developer and architect regarding the so-called "public art" that was going to be placed INSIDE a foyer (accessed by an access code.) This is but one example of the developer's contempt for the intention and spirit of the city's requirements for public art, contextual design, and mitigation of effects.

I hope that the city council will support the appeal, and direct the staff, the ARB and the PTC to require developers to produce more contextual buildings that are welcoming and hold visual interest that is human scale.

Aligning with K and Resident 1: This is our main street: like the new Varsity Theater re-do (which has retained some of the charm and honors public life), ALL the buildings on main street should express some commitment to civic life. This building fails to do that. With its generic design and exclusivity, it may be following the letter of the law but does not come close to the spirit.

5 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2015 at 1:30 pm

stephen levy --

You have put thoughts in my head and words in my mouth that do not exist. Your entire response to me bears to relation to my original post.

1. I was responding to "Good faith and respect" because he or she wrote "That not what the residents of downtown want." "Good faith and respect" does not speak for the residents of downtown.

2. I clearly stated that I speak only for myself, so you do not need to tell me that I do not speak for you. Of course, I do not speak for you. Never said I did.

In fact, I wrote nothing about the building in question, but rather the downtown trend. I did not suggest this particular building should not be allowed. I did not suggest any building following the zoning laws should not be allowed. I have no idea why you would draw these false conclusions from my actual words.

I certainly made no reference to gay people or throwing anyone out. With all due respect, sir, you are way out of line.

2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ abitarian

Thanks for your clarification. So since this thread is about the appeal and you seem to believe that buildings that follow the law should be allowed, do you think this appeal should then be denied?

That was my inference from your comment (that I do not share) about downtown being turned into an ugly office park.

Please clarify your position on this building, the legal process and the appeal. That is the issue at hand in this thread.

I apologize if I put thoughts down that were not your intent.

7 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Stephen -- I appreciate your apology. These are divisive issues.

In regard to this particular building, I feel the appeal has sufficient merit and should be discussed. It appears the building passes the objective criteria, but no surprise, there are legitimate concerns about the subjective "fit" within the location.

Also, there is cause to be skeptical about any claims regarding lack of adverse impact in terms of traffic and safety -- unfortunately, the city has a less than sterling history foreseeing such problems in the past.

Given the late date and a tendency to approve, however, my expectation is that the project will be allowed. My feeling is that we could have done better, especially for this prime location. Property owners have rights, but they also have responsibilities.

At the end of the day, I believe we need data-driven decision-making and comprehensive zoning reform. My feeling is that the current laws and processes simply do not ensure sufficiently high quality outcomes on key dimensions.

One very simple example. The law allows buildings to have less parking if owners agree to seismic upgrades. I don't see why the law doesn't require seismic upgrades *and* adequate parking.

12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Jerry99, I totally agree with your statement about not being able to find parking in downtown Palo Alto for lunch dates.

When my friend who moved to Napa comes down twice a year for her medical appointments, a bunch of her old friends try to meet her for lunch. Years ago we gave up on meeting downtown or on Cal Ave. or in Town & Country because we'd spend so much time trying to find parking that she'd be late for her appointments.

We used to go to Ming's because they had a parking lot, but they closed along with California Cafe and its parking lot. Now we meet and Indo or Fuki Suhi on El Camino since they have their own lots.

Town & Country's lot is so crowded that cars can't even back out of their spaces and cars back up traffic waiting for a spot to open while everyone else waits for the ridiculously timed lights on Embarcadero. The valet parking!! seems to be of little help.

Some old friends who now live in London were nostalgic for an Evvia dinner last month so we parked in the High Street Garage. There were 6 homeless people hanging out right inside the High Street entrance.

Choosing a restaurant by whether they have a parking lot is a totally pathetic way to reward good restaurants.

Our friends who formerly lived here are horrified at the local changes. A woman alone has to think twice about parking in the garages. The reports of cars being vandalized and burglarized in the garages has to horrify anyone.

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Steve Levy's blog puts it succinctly: "Deny the 429 Univ Ave project appeal." I agree. That project has no appeal at all.

11 people like this
Posted by wrong time - wrong place
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2015 at 6:15 pm

This project conforms to the rules only if the ARB can find that it is compatible with the immediate environment and respects the scale of the abutting low density neighborhood on Kipling and also that access to the property and circulation are safe and convenient for pedestians, cyclists and vehicles. The fact that the ARB voted in the affirmative on these two contentious issues is on appeal under the rules. Those who claim that the property owner followed the zoning rules and therefore is entitled to a free pass by the ARB are the ones who are not following the rules. The results of the last 15 years indicate that the entire process is broken not just the ARB review but the zoning itself with its bonuses and exceptions
and FAR's and setbacks, so history is on the side of the legitimacy of the appellant's claim under the rules. Mr. Levy has it backwards.

5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2015 at 7:55 pm

The fact that this building follows the law is irrelevant. Assume that ANY building that goes in for review follows the law. The question on the table is if this building - being on main street - has any architectural value to the city.

It has been pointed out that it will have a cafeteria - that is for the people who work there - so reference to "RETAIL" is very foggy - what is the retail that will be there. Is there anything there that draws people in as an attractive place to see?

The reason we have an "Architectural Board" is to evaluate if the building has any architectural value - any STYLE POINTS.
We can assume from those who know that there is nothing that will draw people into a retail section so what is the point of it all?

Bottom line - assume any building will follow the law - that is not the rationale for approval. Architectural value is what you are suppose to be evaluating.

19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2015 at 6:30 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Our downtown is just awful right now. A friend who left Palo Alto in 1989 and returned for her first visit recently, called it "abominable ". It is dirty, noisy and tacky during the day with ridiculous fake retail and absurdly expensive and lousy restaurants. Parking is a disaster. It is dangerous and tacky at night. It has become a predictable disastrous outcome of over urbanization.

3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Mauricio, what are you going on about "over urbanization"? Are you saying that suburban areas can't have tacky retail and lousy restaurants? Or is your concern that the crowds shopping and dining in downtown Palo Alto are somehow the wrong types of people?

13 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I urge everyone who thinks that the city council should hear an appeal for this building to immediately write to the PA city council. I just sent the following letter to:

Please vote to remove Item 15, the proposed development to replace the Shady Lane building, from the consent calendar.

The planning commission and ARB have completely ignored the requirement that new buildings be compatible in style to their neighbors. My understanding is that there is no legal requirement that the city allow a project the absolute maximum zoning, especially when it is totally out of character with the surrounding buildings.

Please consider this appeal so that the requirement that projects be consistent with their surroundings can be considered.

If joining the TMA automatically gives a project a way to reduce required parking, please modify the TMA so that this is no longer the case. The TMA claims to be about improving the parking situation. Giving developers one more way to reduce required parking does not do this, especially before the TMA has actually proved that it will succeed in reducing the need for parking. Let's reduce the parking deficit first, and then consider reduced parking requirements, if indeed the parking deficit can be reduced to 0.

Required parking should be increased, not decreased. Joining TMA should be required of any development - not used as a giveaway for reduced parking requirements.

11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Thanks, Marie. I just sent an email off that's pretty close to what you wrote.

I urge others to do the same.

13 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2015 at 10:48 pm

Ditto to Marie's comments. In short, stop all overdevelopment in downtown Palo Alto and throughout the city of Palo Alto: no more apartments, condos, and a freeze on any NEW office development; any upgrades on existing offices are granted as long as within the 50 foot height and the style of the building is consistent with the era of the teens-40s; the stuff built in the 50s-00s is functional but soulless.

9 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2015 at 10:25 am

Another underparked, oversized, glass building that is completely out of character with and overshadows the neighbors with too much office space and too little housing. But it is very profitable to build for the owner. I hope the city council can dial this project down a bit starting with not having it be 4 stories straight up on Kipling and and making them add more housing and parking and less office.

2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Keep it on the consent calendar. It's been vetted thoroughly and some changes were made along the way to improve the project. And there will be 5 more parking spaces than required. Don't blame the owner and architect. You can blame the vettors but that won't work either. It's the rules/codes/ordinances that are in place and apply that allow for these kinds of projects. They have evolved over the years into what we have today with much leniency on behalf of developers... parking buyouts, in lieu of benefits, etc. They dangle a big worm and the decision makers bite. Suckers are really dumb fish you know. A beautiful rainbow trout would never fall for it. He'd wait for the fly hatch to occur before he bit. I don't always agree with what I see happening downtown, but if the owner and architect followed the rules then the project should be approved and move forward. Maybe the rules should change if people are all that upset. Let your voices be heard in the right places. Don't waste your time commenting on this anymore.

Our Council has many more important things to deal with rather than chewing on this bone again. They have no basis for overturning the approval of the project (a disgruntled next door property owner doesn't pass the litmus test) and there could be a law suit brought if they voted against it. This project, when it's completed, could stand as an example for 'good' or 'bad' for all to see and respond/react to. Maybe it will cause changes to be made for the good in our development/building codes and processes.

5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 6, 2015 at 2:05 pm

What is more important than a decent-looking downtown?

6 people like this
Posted by Retail Issues
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Another aspect of this planed development and how it effects retail is Wong has short term leased all her tenants
for the past 3 or more years. This means "real" retail will be replaced by "fake" retail such as Beam and "pop up store"
retail and this will continue for at least two more years until the building is torn down. Rummer is three of the "Real" retail tenants will be leaving in a few months as no serious retail tenant wants to be at the mercy of the landlord with a month to month lease.

The quote from Sam Arsan should be evaluated with the knowledge that he manages listings for many of Wong's buildings. The buildings have "failing mechanical systems" because they may not be maintained properly because she is planing to tear them down.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 6, 2015 at 11:09 pm

So, what has been the usual water usage (ccf/month) at this parcel address?
What is projected water usage after the new construction?
Will it be more, or less, or should we care?

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Get fact-based reporting on the COVID-19 crisis sent to your inbox daily.

Coronavirus Food Safety Update + New! Insider Tips
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 4,944 views

A Pragmatic Approach to A Trillion Trees
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 3,803 views

The University of California’s flexible policies during COVID-19
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 6 comments | 2,538 views

Repairing a Disagreement with your Beloved & “Physical” vs. “Social” Distancing
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 2,523 views

Coronavirus: my early April thoughts – and fears
By Diana Diamond | 8 comments | 2,155 views



The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details