New senior residences address Palo Alto's growing need | May 2, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 2, 2014

New senior residences address Palo Alto's growing need

The Avant at Palo Alto Commons offers housing for independent seniors and aging boomers

by Sue Dremann

A new independent-living community for people aged 60 and older officially opened its doors on Thursday, May 1, offering a glimpse at what the future might hold for aging Palo Altans.

The Avant at Palo Alto Commons is a 44-unit complex located at 4041 El Camino Way. Situated next to the Commons' assisted-living facility, it aims to change the connotation of "old-age" living, staff said.

Unlike asset-draining "buy-in" senior homes, The Avant rents studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — which include kitchens and laundry facilities — on a monthly basis, said Mary Lou Marshall, director of marketing. Seniors need only give 30 days' notice to vacate, she added.

The units range from a roughly 800-square-foot studio for $5,300 a month and a one-bedroom unit for $6,700 to a two-bedroom, two-bath, 2,031-square-foot suite priced at $8,900. Housing a second resident in a unit would add a monthly cost of $1,200, Marshall said.

The privately owned facility also charges a $1,000 apartment-reservation fee and one-time $2,500 community fee.

The Avant came about after Palo Alto Commons staff began receiving numerous calls from younger seniors who were looking to downsize, Marshall said.

"We were thinking about the coming wave of people who don't want to take care of a house anymore," she said.

Many people are nervous about selling their homes, their biggest asset. Paying the monthly rent allows residents to keep their homes and rent them out if they choose, she said. Many residents travel, and some still work. To attract people with a healthy lifestyle, The Avant has an exercise facility, plus an indoor, heated lap pool and therapeutic spa.

The housing complex is structured around an inner courtyard that is dominated by a large oak tree.

The decks are big enough for a small patio garden or for private outdoor entertaining.

As with many housing facilities, common areas are sprinkled throughout: A living room offers space where residents can mingle or sit quietly to read; an upstairs solarium with full-length windows has enough tables and chairs to accommodate a family gathering or bridge club. A library/media room with wireless Internet access can be converted into a movie theater, Marshall said.

Other amenities include food — breakfast and dinner daily in the dining room — weekly housekeeping and linen change. There are lectures, trips to the San Francisco Symphony, day outings and health and fitness classes, including aerobics, aquatics fitness, yoga, tai chi, and weight training. Community college classes, lectures and discussion groups and instructor-led art classes, including painting and ceramics, take place in the media room.

One can schedule transportation by van or on-site Cadillac sedan or car to churches, synagogues, shopping and other communities. There is also on-site parking at ground level and an underground garage.

So far, The Avant is about one-third full. The new residents are ages 67 to 90, Marshall said. At least half come from Palo Alto, but others have moved here to be closer to their children who work in Silicon Valley.

The Avant does allow residents to have a temporary health aide if the resident becomes injured or ill. The complex offers medication management and shower assistance for a fee. A registered nurse at the wellness center is available to discuss any medical needs with residents and their families.

If the time comes that a person cannot function independently on a permanent basis, he or she can transfer to Palo Alto Commons next door.

Palo Alto has 1,232 independent-living units for seniors, including The Avant. Channing House plans to add another 14 as early as this fall, spokeswoman Letitia Roddy said.

Marshall said the Palo Alto Commons' owners did their research to see what is out there and what their niche would be.

"People wanted bigger apartments, and many couples wanted two bathrooms. Many had their own bed and bath in their own home. It's difficult trying to get a man and a woman to share a bathroom again," she said.

There is a perception of senior homes that The Avant is intended to dispel with its independent-living model, Marshall said. It's the idea that everyone is in a wheelchair or walker.

"Some people find that discouraging," she said.

Life among other seniors doesn't have to be a downhill slide, she said. It can even invigorate interests lost to aging. When a senior has given up driving or no longer finds a trip to San Francisco at night an option, a van ride with like-minded seniors can make a trip to the symphony a pleasure again.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Looks very cold and institutional....expected more for those prices.

Posted by The-Future-For-Palo-Alto-Seniors?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2014 at 9:32 am

> 2,031-square-foot suite priced at $8,900 + $1,200 for a second person

Wow! For two people to rent a suite, the costs come to a mere $121,200 per year, before any of the other charges kick in—such as utilities, and bills from the Fire Department for calls that might not result in a trip to the hospital.

Ten years at this place would come to over $1.2M—which is about the current average cost of a house in Palo Alto. If someone were comfortable in their home, why would they want to sell it in order to live here?

It’s pretty clear that hard-pressed Palo Alto seniors are not likely to be the target market for these units.

Posted by HAHAHAHAHA, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2014 at 9:56 am

More like an expensive place for PA's billionaire babies to install their aging parents.

Posted by Charlotte, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm

I have an extra bedroom in my house. I can quit my job o take care of you for $3,000.

Posted by need more info, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Is there a more detailed reason why the independent living/month to month rates should be so high? Because it's in Palo Alto?

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm

@need more info - Yes, the reason the rates are so high is because its Palo Alto. And they can.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I have looked into The Avant and toured the property. The prices reflect not only how expensive it is to own and operate a business in the area but also because it is not a buy-in. That factor is what distinguishes this housing from other upscale senior independent housing options. I looked at The Vi and the JCC property in Palo Alto and both require a HUGE move in payment. With that comes a smaller monthly rental but The Vi and others are the ones holding onto a resident's move in fee (could be over $1 million) and earning the interest off of it, and only a portion of it is refundable. I am not currently looking for myself but a family member, and if that time comes to make a significant move to independent living you can bet I'd rather have him hold on to his own money and move in somewhere with no obligation to stay longer than he chooses. He treasures his independence!

Posted by Wha?, a resident of Barron Park
on May 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

Wow that's pricey for a couple of meals a day (seniors don't eat much) and some common areas and the ability to PAY EXTRA for some assistance. Holy Toledo!

I could invite a few senior friends to share my large home or rent a duplex together, and rent a cab to the symphony together and basically have just as much fun in a more natural environment for a fraction of the price.

I'm predicting this place will have trouble filling slots and will lower its prices.

Posted by senior, a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2014 at 11:04 am

It's actually a pretty good deal when you consider what is included - rent, electricity, water, garbage collection, property tax, property insurance, gutter cleaning, painting, home maintenance, happy hour, gym and pool membership, 24 hour security, laundry, housekeeping, gardening service, IT maintenance, chauffeur, health care services next door if needed, many beautiful seating areas, nice courtyard and a fantastic social scene with others close to my age. Seems like a bargain to me!

Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2014 at 11:18 am

Incredible! For less money, one could receive great care and meals and continually cruise around the world, seeing a lot more than the bulging at the seams growth of Palo Alto.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by former resident, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2014 at 11:26 am

"The units range from a roughly 800-square-foot studio for $5,300 a month and a one-bedroom unit for $6,700 to a two-bedroom, two-bath, 2,031-square-foot suite priced at $8,900. Housing a second resident in a unit would add a monthly cost of $1,200, Marshall said. "

Do you know how INSANE this is? Jaw-dropping. Obviously only for the very well off and I don't doubt that there will be retired zillionaires that will need this as they age. Cost of living, always high in Palo Alto, and I lived there 1970-2008 so I know. We were driven out by it. Maybe others should consider moving to a less expensive area. Yes, one has to leave friends and family and home to start all over and that is painful but you can find a nice place to live. Living in P.A. totally distorts one's view of reality and the irony is that it isn't any longer all that great a place to live anyway. Way too congested, cut throat competitive, infused with a sense of entitlement that has become totally disgusting. I'm much happier living where I am now and a person can be independent a lot longer. There are several retirement/assisted living places here but I'm not yet to that point and, instead, am trying to downsize to a smaller house. To give you some perspective, my monthly payment for a nice 2390 sq ft 4 bed, 2+bath, house with quarter acre lot, is $1521. including taxes and insurance. And it's on the market for $299,900 in case anyone is interested (Bella Casa realty, McMinnville, OR) There is a lovely senior living complex here, the biggest one, called Hillside. And there are a number of others, including special for Alzhiemer's patients. It gets to the point where one is just a FOOL to stay there and pay those prices for an ever less appealing place to live unless one is really well off and can afford to waste money.

Posted by 70s, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2014 at 11:33 am

I have also been here since the 70s and suggest others that think Palo Alto is such a horrible place to live, like "former resident", should also become former residents and let others who appreciate Palo Alto move in. Sure, it's changed a lot but so what? It's still an amazing place to live.

Posted by pearl, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2014 at 11:50 am

[Portion removed.] Even if I had the money, I wouldn't move in. I had to read this article twice, because, at first, I thought it was a joke, or that someone had made typos concerning the dollar amounts. This is so off-the-wall, so outrageous, so laughable, and downright criminal!!! I hope no seniors move into this place. It's the rip-off of the century! {Portion removed.]

Posted by lindaloo, a resident of Mountain View
on May 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

Sooooo . . . why is @former resident's house on the market (if it's so great in McMinnville OR)?

Posted by palo altan, a resident of Ventura
on May 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Sadly the article isn't a joke. The joke, of course is on those who work around the area but have to commute for HOURS to get there. I wonder if anyone thought of the irony of the Barron Park mobile home protesters, protesting right across front his swank "seniors" home? Maybe that was lost on the population.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm

It looks like Motel 6.

Posted by need more info, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2014 at 1:23 pm

why would part of the fee go to property taxes - aren't they condos or apartments?
It seems like a very steep price.
Don't single out just this place, though, for criticism on price...

Posted by Californian, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

You can get much nicer accommodations for half the price in other parts of California. But then your kids want visit you as often. Maybe that's a good thing.

Posted by MARIA, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm

You can stay in your home and hire live-in help for several years for that amount of money. Being in a familiar environment becomes more important the older one gets, and being among strangers in unfamiliar surroundings has been shown in both medical studies and personally observed situations to speed up memory loss, physical deterioration and unhappiness among old folks - over 70. Use your money wisely, stay home, get help and enjoy life. I am 85 and going on 100 and doing just this.

Posted by Really?, a resident of Mountain View
on May 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm

This is outrageous, insulting, and out of touch. If that's what Heaven on Earth costs at the "Avant," I'll just wait for something cheaper at the "Apres."

Posted by Senior2, a resident of Green Acres
on May 6, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I've been there and it's gorgeous. It's not "affordable housing" but it's unlikely that was the goal. Great programs too. Most of the people commenting here are downers no matter what the subject matter is. Good luck with that!

Posted by Sandwich generation, a resident of Gunn High School
on May 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I can imagine how disappointed families with senior parents were when proposition D passed. The intent of the Maybel project was to create some affordable senior housing. It looks as if Palo Alto residents shot themselves in their collective feet!

Now we have Vi, JCC, Avant, all super expensive while places like Lytton Gardens, a more affordable alternative, has a waiting list of several years.

We need to create an affordable alternative.

Posted by ChrisC, a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

OMG. Who has money for this? I would think anybody with this kind of money would go into one of the swankier places, where you do buy in, and as you decline, you can move to other areas for different kinds of care. This needed to have been in the April Fool's issue.

Posted by ChrisC, a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

To Really: Thanks for the big laugh. Maybe they should've given more thought to their name. Avant what? death? I'm reminded of the great British series, Waiting for God.

Posted by Almost there, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

There has to be a less expensive - but nice way for seniors to live. I wish someone would figure it out
before I need to move.

Posted by residents, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Most of the comments here seem down right silly to me. Our community needs all types of housing for seniors, families, students etc. and at a variety of prices. Palo Alto is an upscale community and there is nothing wrong with seniors choosing to move into an expensive new apartment that offers luxuries such as a valet, driver, chef, nurse, 24 hour security, swimming pool and gym. I've toured there in consideration of a family member and was very impressed. Additionally it is more affordable than the local buy in options as my relative doesn't have a spare million dollars as a down payment. Quit complaining!

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Less expensive, but not as upscale option - Redwood Villa in Mountain View - really nice owners and staff, very friendly residents, VERY dated decor except in the individual apartments (think the Brady Bunch's home), 3 meals, some transportation. It's a retirement community not an assisted living place. A friend's parent lives there and loves it. Rates are 2500-3000 or so if I remember correctly.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on May 6, 2014 at 6:11 pm

There are a lot of bitter people posting here. This place is not for everybody. Some people will want more amenities and some will want fewer.

Let's see how fast this place fills up. If it is successful, we should see more like it. It's good to have choice of a quality place that does not require a huge buy-in.

For those of you who want bargain-basement places, you should hound the city to find another spot for the Maybell project.

Posted by need more info, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Posted by Sandwich generation, a resident of Gunn High School
3 hours ago

"I can imagine how disappointed families with senior parents were when proposition D passed. The intent of the Maybel project was to create some affordable senior housing. It looks as if Palo Alto residents shot themselves in their collective feet!"
Weren't there such qualifications (low income etc.) to prohibit any PA seniors from moving into that apartment - if it HAD been built I thought it most likely would have been filled with people moving here. Plus, these establishments are by no means equivalent.
Need something "mid-range"

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Some people have apparently forgotten that Measure D actually failed.

Posted by former resident, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Lindaloo: If you read my post you would have seen that I'm trying to downsize from this big house to a smaller place. To expand on it, since you are so curious, I need to reduce monthly expense and my mortgage is the biggest monthly expense I have. The house and lot are too much for me, a single widow of 75 with health issues. When we bought this house 5 years ago I had a husband. He died 3 years ago. I am staying in McMinnville. This is a town that is run in such a more intelligent way and so much more for the residents and the vibe is so much more relaxed, friendly and courteous. It's in the beautiful Willamette Valley, heart of the Oregon Wine Country, 35 miles to Portland, 50 miles to the coast. It's just the right size at 33K people to have everything one needs. It's a lot like Palo Alto once was, in some respects.

Posted by Makes sense, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 8:18 am

The apartments at Maybell were not a care facility with any of those amenities and were not to be a way for residents to put their parents up at taxpayer expense ($30 million expense up front, then annually in lost taxes,etc). We are most of us pretty cramped, if you want to move your parents here, put in an in-law, or make space in your own home.

Palo Alto is 17% seniors when the state average is 11%. Seniors are more wealthy on the whole. Some of them may wish to rent out their homes and live here for the money. When they die, their heirs won't have to pay tax on the inheritance. Plus no buy in so no one has to pay $1 million up front. There are far more seniors sitting on multi-million dollar assets than poor ones.

If you want another Maybell, take a page from the mandarin immersion debates - don't take over someone's neighbrhood or school, identify a place where you want to put it, and invite them in. Judging by the posters, I'd like to hear from the people who have rented rooms to low-income seniors, put up homeless neighbors in their newly expanded pergolas, the way my relatives the housing advocates put hard-up people up in their tiny house. Let Channing House divide its largest rooms when people vacate them and the rooms are renovated. They get to increase their zoning and supply, and we get to keep even more seniors. Stop whining and be a part of the solution. Maybell was only ever a way for City Council to tie up the housing funds so they couldn't be available to save Buena Visa when that money could actually have done so. It had the added bonus of tearing apart the neighborhood so it isnt able to join forces to fully advocate for BV. Bravo to the former head of acquisitions for Prometheus on our Council! Isnt it interesting in all that surplus there are no plans to help out BV. I say delay all the art money and hiring one year, we've done fine so far, and invest in some property at BV so the residents can afford to buy the park.

Posted by lindaloo, a resident of Mountain View
on May 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

@former resident: thank you for responding. I think your situation reflects many of ours, in that there is "young retirement" and "old retirement" -- or two stages of old age. At 60 (my age), I could well consider a community such as McMinnville; I have friends that moved to similar communities w/in the past 15 years or so. When I visited, I was also impressed by the feel (I grew up in Palo Alto/Stanford myself and have nostalgic feelings about how it used to be. Sadly -- or perhaps not -- I have come to also have realistic thoughts about what I will need in terms of resources, in particular, medical care. McMinnville, as an example, seems to have one for-profit hospital. Here we have PAMF, world class Stanford Hospital, etc. w/in 5 minute drive. My friends have all had medical issues while living in their small towns and it's been a struggle for them to make hours long drives or even flights to get to major medical centers.

Anyway, I wish you well. I wish we could all have it all . . .

Posted by LN, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2016 at 11:26 am

My parents have worked hard for their money and never spent dollars on eating out or lavish vacations. They have lived at The Avant the past 6 months. Prices are very competitive for the Bay Area and a bit less. It is month-to-month unlike many of the others in the Bay Area, including Pleasanton and San Jose. The upside to this place is you don't have to sell your home to 'buy-in' and pay a minimum of over $500K. My parents love to exercise and swim and can do so each morning. There is a driver, excellent food and they have made many new friends. The musicians are world-renowned so you are not listening to volunteers who are untrained.

Highly recommend The Avant.

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