Room for growth | December 16, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - December 16, 2011

Room for growth

As Palo Alto's hotel market heats up, builders and city officials are looking to cash in

by Gennady Sheyner

Developers and Palo Alto land-use watchdogs rarely speak with the same voice, but when the venerable Rickey's Hyatt hotel closed its doors in June 2005, just about everyone was singing the blues.

This story contains 3328 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

Too many people resist change - regardless of changing circumstances. The world moves on, and we have to move with it. The important thing is to have the proper vision in what to take away and add in its place. Certainly Arbor Real doesn't add to the beauty of El Camino in place of Rickey's, but the preservationists learned to work with the developers in the best interests of the community.

The present Council is faced with finding new revenue sources to maintain the services residents have come to expect. There is always a trade off. Thank goodness we don't have dirt roads any more.

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Posted by Gordon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2011 at 11:51 am

This was an unusually detailed and well researched article. Good work! A hotel at Stanford Shopping Center would be great! Also, I'm sorry to hear that the city is considering a "digital billboard" to raise revenue. The ones on 101 are hugely annoying and distracting--especially at night.

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Posted by Jason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

I'm confused how the bowling alley is a treasure. People complaining about the changes in that area of El Camino aren't paying attention. There is room for hotel growth; however, Curtis Williams isn't exactly correct regarding El Camino's lack of options. Both the Cabana and Dinah's Garden Hotel offer great options for business and Stanford. Both have had great years in 2011. Dinah's Garden Hotel, which is locally owned and operated, has gone through one phase of updates including offering complimentary internet through the cities fiber optic line and has more renovations scheduled for 2012. During the week both hotels are sold out by the likes of Google, VMware, Bosch, HP, and others. They both also have suites that any executive would be happy to stay in, Cabana offering a more corporate feel, while Dinah's Garden offers boutique suites filled with legitimate pieces of art and history. Go hang out in the Trader Vic's bar some night and see for yourself the type of guests who stay. Go hang out in the Trader Vic's bar some night and see for yourself.

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Posted by Debbie Ford-Scriba
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Interesting, well-researched article. Thank you!

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I think there is a lot to think about in this article - thanks!

I don't exactly think of Hilton Garden Inn as particularly upscale - yes, it is a nice 3 star type place. The indoor pools I have seen have been 4 ft deep max and the size of a postage stamp. I don't want to get totally negative since I have found staff at this hotel chain courteous at the two locations where I have stayed multiple times. Sure - fine but not quite up to executive standards - IF that is the intention as it appears to be stated as a "Palo Alto need" (visiting execs may have higher expectations of hotel properties IMO)

I AM wondering about the exact location and impact on schoolchildren for that hotel. Hard to see how Page Mill near ECR (not exactly sure where that past proposal was located) was considered a major issue for homeowners and not approved while Arastradero/ECR is considered "fine."
The funniest thing (to me) was the comment that Stanford's current top football player is the reason for strong recent business at hotels near the university - good God! Let's hope that isn't really the reason for many visitors coming to Stanford.
Of course, major universities result in visitors, speakers and such and nowadays parents are more likely to visit their kids' schools, it appears, so I agree we should provide more suitable lodgings for such persons close by the university. If they can also easily, conveniently shop and eat at Stanford Shopping Center, hallelujah.
By the way, at some other universities it is known there are just a few hotel properties conveniently close to the campus - those then capitalize on limited availability of convenient rooms and rates tend to be much more high than they should be, considering the hotel.
I think Stanford parents would appreciate a much more upscale hotel property right here in Palo Alto.

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Posted by Lynn Ware
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I agree that Palo Alto could use a few more upscale hotels-especially boutique "green" hotels.

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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Gennady Sheyner does her homework - this is a great read.

We lost a $1m/yr in tax revenue when Hyatt got scared away. We lost close to zero tax revenue when facebook left (their lessor's pay tax and those buildings would likely be leased by someone other than facebook. Also, the facebook folks generally eat-in.

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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2011 at 5:10 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Additional history resource: PA Weekly Guest Opinion "Hyatt needed to learn more about 'horse whispering' " of 26 May 2004 by prominent local developer Jim Baer (Web Link) for a small sense of how Hyatt sabotaged themselves. "Jimmy" is quite wrong in his inference that Hyatt "got scared away".

And the article is wrong in its implication that Palo Alto was late coming to appreciate the impact of the hotel tax (TOT = Transient Occupancy Tax). It was a major factor in the considerations of Rickey's. What we had was a leadership -- City Manager and Council -- that persistently failed to make decisions despite various crises bearing down on them.

Addendum to Baer's Guest Opinion: Many of the delays in the process were created by Hyatt: They would claim that they were ready to proceed, a hearing would be scheduled, and then they would cancel at the last minute, and then become non-responsive for some time. One conjecture was that the project was not big enough to be enough of a priority to get the necessary approvals from the Chicago headquarters before a reorganization there restarted their consideration. Another conjecture was that the local team was playing a well-known game of trying to exploit self-induced hardships ("A person who killed his parents pleading for leniency because he is an orphan").

And if you wonder why there was such opposition to them building 300 housing units, those units would have been on roughly _half_ the site, or over 3 times the density of what is there now. Plus, Hyatt tried to outrageously game the system, such as trying to pervert the "mixed use" classification to greatly reduce the amount of parking on the claim that the cars of the hotel's guests would not be present when the residents were home. Hyatt never revealed whether they thought it was the residents or the guests who were expected to be "creatures of the night" -- understandable since these were the days when vampires, werewolves and the like were still monsters, not hyper-attractive, brooding misunderstood teens.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Well I didn't realize the space on the south side of ElCamino near Arastradero was getting a hotel, too (opposite the old Rickey's).

That's a really bad place to put anything that puts a lot of traffic out onto El Camino, because that's already a dangerous intersection. What a nightmare turning right on El Camino will be if there's a hotel there! It already is.

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