A plan to demolish the aged Hotel Parmani on El Camino Real and construct a roomier, more prominent hotel gained momentum Monday night, when the City Council signaled its willingness to make a zone change to accommodate the transformation.
The council also praised the proposed architecture for the new four-story hotel, which would be 48 feet in height, feature 97 guest rooms and a two-level basement. It would replace the sprawling but decidedly more low-key two-story hotel that currently occupies that site on the corner of El Camino Real and Hansen Way.
For Yatin Patel, whose family has owned the hotel since the 1980s, the biggest obstacle to redevelopment is a zoning rule that requires a 50-foot setback for buildings along Hansen Way.
To overcome this barrier, Patel asked the council to change the zoning at the site so that the setback requirement would no longer exist. The location, in close proximity to both Stanford Research Park and Stanford University, is well suited for a larger hotel, he said.
"Location is something travelers love because it provides easy walkable access to offices in Stanford Research Park and walkable, bikeable access to the university," Patel said.
Randy Popp, the project architect, said the hotel would bring in about $1 million in annual hotel-tax revenues to the city. He also said the project complies with all code requirements, except for the setback rule, and noted that the city still has fewer hotel rooms than it did in 2005, when Hyatt Rickey's shut down its operations.
While the council didn't make any decisions on the project Monday, members indicated that they will likely support scrapping the setback requirement.
The council had also reviewed the project last April, though both the project and the council have changed since then. The prior design was criticized by some as too bulky and blocky for the corner; the new one, by contrast, won rave reviews from from council. Councilman Cory Wolbach called the site an "appropriate place for a hotel" and called the design – which includes outdoor seating and a second-floor terrace -- "very attractive." Councilman Eric Filseth concurred.
"It's a big step forward from the really early concept a year ago," Filseth said. "I think it brings the average up in Palo Alto."
According to the applicants, the new hotel would include a cafe or a restaurant on the ground floor. While Popp said the establishment is intended to be used by hotel guests, several council members urged Patel to open it up to the greater community, a suggestion that he acknowledged with a nod.
"There's not that many amenities in the Research Park and that can be something that's walkable for someone to have a cup of coffee or something like that," Mayor Greg Scharff said.
Council members offered other suggestions as well. Tom DuBois urged the applicants to ensure that the design allows for traffic circulation that avoids backup on El Camino Real. Councilwoman Karen Holman also asked the applicants to consider wider sidewalks, with the idea of creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment along El Camino Real.
"We want a landing spot that's going to be comfortable for people to be able to navigate with strollers, bicycles, et cetera," Holman said.