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Busy intersection could get road work, building

Original post made on Feb 11, 2013

One of Palo Alto's most prominent and congested intersections may soon have a signature building serving as its anchor as part of a proposal that the City Council weighed for the first time Monday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 11, 2013, 10:51 PM

Comments (41)

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

So, we are trying to get more people to walk, bike and use public transit, then we erect giant glass buildings right next to the sidewalk, with no trees between pedestrians and traffic? This building, while it may look impressive from a car, is unfriendly to anyone on a sidewalk level (not to mention birds!)

I'm sick of ego-driven architecture - and yes, this is all about maximizing square footage on a tiny lot. It is an ugly building in many ways.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

Look again. The trees are faded out so that the building's full elevation can be viewed in the illustrations provided.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

You think cars speeding through Midtown are bad now, just wait until this building gets built. Hopefully they will at least provide shuttles to the Caltrain station to encourage some commuters to use the train instead of Hwy 101.

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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

I dislike when trees are built into the middle of the sidewalk, so that there's not space for two people to walk next to each other. (In some cases it may be reasonable, but that intersection is not somewhere I walk.)

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Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:46 am

A Planned Community is not the same thing as getting a few traffic lights in exchange for yet another over-crowded, profit-maximizing development. We should stop abusing the planned community exception. The "public benefits" are NEVER worth the long-term harm that comes to our town from developments that do not make sense.

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Posted by Evergreen Park Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

Take a walk down the sidewalk anywhere between Page Mill and Stanford Ave, they are to narrow to walk two abreast with the trees as is. Maybe it could work if they narrowed El Camino Real like is proposed but that is ages in the future.

The building looks overly prominent to me.

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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2013 at 10:51 am

As one council member aptly put "it feels like "trying to put a Size 12 foot into a Size 9 shoe." It is simply too large for the lot and the effect is the building that spilling out to the surrounding space. Do they really want people use this very exposed sidewalk? In addition, beware of the proposed density. As our experience with Facebook (in College Terrace) shows all the promises will not mitigate substantial increase in traffic. The intersection is already
quite disastrous.

2 people like this
Posted by Old School
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

The way things are going, our lovely Palo Alto is soon going to look and feel like San Jose. We don't need all this big development in Palo Alto. We don't need to add more jobs and housing to the city. It is a lovely college town with a unique atmosphere for small start ups and beautiful (and reletively safe) family living. Turn these developers away City Council! You are responsible for the future of our city.

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Posted by arcc
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:13 am

Nice design but still a bit generic. I say go even higher but thinner. Give us some interesting shapes.

8 people like this
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:25 am

1. With a building as massive as the one proposed, how will the Sunrise Senior Residence next to it get the daylight to which it's legally entitled?

2. I applaud Karen Holman for her comments. This building is utterly pedestrian-unfriendly.

3. If I hear the adjective "world-class" applied to Palo Alto much more, I shall puke. Ego and greed are the (mis)guiders of many (not all) of the city council.

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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

Since Embarcadero already is a disaster and now Page Mill will become one also, I guess we'll have to go all the way to San Antonio to cross El Camino.

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Posted by Star Teachout
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:32 am

Thank you to Karen Holman for suggesting an appropriate, more modest, and thoughtful design--something that results in better architecture and happier neighbors. The proposed building, if half the size, might be workable.

I find it odd that Mr. Klein feels we "missed the boat on the other three corners." A spacious soccer field with beautiful native grasses and sculpture and a modest brick raised bed with flowers (with Pa Square set back from the road). These are much more appropriate and admirable than a towering building that blocks visibility (unsafe), overwhelms the surrounding corners (imbalanced), and makes an overly grand statement (for a part of Palo Alto that hasn't been spoiled yet).

Yes, some improvements can be made both in traffic and beautification, but lets not condemn a part of the city that is still really functional.

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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:32 am

OOOPS. I just read the second article and see that going all the way to San Antonio is out, too, due to work there. Excellent planning. NOT.

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Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:37 am

At yesterday's Council meeting, Bob Moss pointed out that there is a toxic plume below this lot and the underground garage planned would be exposed, as well as the building there and the plume would also be moved towards other nearby buildings. The Council ignored his comments.

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Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

As much as our residents make comments, and really have the same feelings, who really listens to us. I am so sick of this city building all these huge places and adding more homes. Our schools are OVERCROWDED! How hard is it to see this??
I just don't get it and I wonder if anyone who has any "say so" really listens to disgusted with our, once quaint, little city.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I measured the sidewalk at Miki's. Four-foot-zero. Then 2 more feet to the curb and door handles of 35-mph cars (if obeying the speed limit). Don't reach your hand out. The city claims this width is sufficient to accommodate two directions of legal pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Photos above (drawings actually) indicate perhaps 8-foot sidewalks, including space for very flat trees.

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Posted by 33yrresident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I agree with Old School, except to say her "is" should say "was." Palo Alto was a funky, fun, charming, safe, intelligent, shady place to raise a family and live a life. It is rapidly becoming not so any more. I grieve for it, while hoping to preserve any bit that can be saved. No more humongous buildings, no more hyper-noisy restaurants, no more tightly-built-to-the-line homes, no more rude drivers/walkers/cell-phone talkers! Back to the civilized living that I remember. I know, I know, I'm a dying breed.

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Ken Hayes is a talented architect, I too would expect something more interesting from him. Someone commented on Sunrise having a legal right to daylight - do daylight plane laws apply to business too? For some reason I thought it was only residences. (Sunrise is legally a business, not a residence.)

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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm

That lot is not that big. Sure looks like another oversized building for that location...

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

World class ugly.

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Posted by M. Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Why consider another ugly monster development? Is this an example of tackling the "priorities", wasting time and money. Take a hike around the Palo Alto Business Park on E. Bayshore and you will find abundant office space sitting empty.

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Posted by RT
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm

The morning traffic from Oregon Expressway to that intersection is already horrible. Making another turn lane will NOT help as to bulk of the traffic is going west. The proposed building is TOO BIG and will create an even worse traffic problem.

Any council person who votes to change the zoning on this land will NOT get my vote in future elections!!!

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2013 at 6:30 pm

@A - In fairness, they aren't just offering a couple traffic lights, they are offering to add a lane, and improve traffic, and helping bail out the California Ave redesign by paying for the lighting, and fixing the tunnel. It may be a bit oversized, but I'd rather see a building than a parking lot. Of all the empty lots in PA, this has to be one of the most suitable for office space.

As busy as Oregon Expy is, it is never going to be a particularly walkable street. Focus on the setback on El Camino, and if you need to walk towards the tracks, walk on Sheridan or California.

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Posted by Old School two
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I agree with Old School. We don't need these huge ugly buildings that will turn us in San Jose. Lets put more effort also into beautifying Cal Ave. which is such an ugly dump

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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

(38 year resident of Palo Alto, moved to Oregon 2008)

I agree with Old School, KP, 33yrresident and others who are not happy with the way Palo Alto has developed in the last couple of decades. I was so in love with the town for a long time but then the quality of life started going downhill when unsuitable, overly-large, and too often grossly ugly developments proliferated like bunnies, traffic got very problematic and there was almost no shopping left for people who weren't really well off. It has been all growth growth growth and, with it, it's become a worse, worse, worse place to live. It was a painful thing to witness and experience. I haven't been back since we moved. I don't want to see any of the things I've read about here over the past 4+ years as none has sounded like an improvement to me, quite the contrary.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Ugly yes, but that should appeal to Palo Alto government. Matches the rest of their vision.

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Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

@ palo alto parent, "Someone commented on Sunrise having a legal right to daylight - do daylight plane laws apply to business too? For some reason I thought it was only residences. (Sunrise is legally a business, not a residence.)"

People--elderly people--live in the Sunrise building. Even though a company owns this building, we're talking about people's legal right to daylight. They reside in apartments there. Surely apartment-dwellers have a legal right to daylight, just as people in single-family homes do!!

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Looks like it would be a challenge to get in and out of the underground garage (I guess I don't know where they would place the entrance and exit, but the space seems small and it is busy at and near that intersection). They are talking about only 15 surface parking spaces - not much.
Overall, I don't care for the "look" of the building, however that IS a busy city streetcorner, not an out of the way quiet residential area, and an appropriate spot for a major/tall development.
I am also concerned about the senior living center and how it would be affected - I hope the Council takes this into consideration.
I hope there is an effort to have some decent landscaping...

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Posted by lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2013 at 4:14 pm

So what to build on a registered SuperFund site that has a 40" main sewer pipe running through the middle of the property? There's a reason why no one has built a structure on this site, it's saturated with known and unknown chemicals and therefore is listed as a SuperFund site. The same chemical contamination that exists on this site and the abutting soccer field was enough for the Federal Government to deem the conjoining site as a SuperFund site. Ever wonder why Stanford didn't build a five story glass building on a prime piece of Page Mill real estate where your kids now play soccer games? Ever wonder why plastic grass was installed on the soccor field over a cap base. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

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Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 8:23 pm

What an ugly building to put on that corner, and to think that corner had a neat little drive in restaurant called the Stanford Drive In..
Across the street was a historic building of sorts I thought they were going to save, but it was knocked down.
At one point there was talk of improving that intersection traffic using the properties, but now the Developers want to put a massive structure with almost no parking on the busy intersection.
Notice the ugly trend in Palo Alto? ..Massive Ugly structures crammed onto a lot, High density traffic congesting designs and for what?
Palo Alto is under the thumb of developers..Ugly Greedy Developers with no vision.

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Posted by Tree Top
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Putting new commercial buildings in the right places helps to bring in tax revenue. It's not in itself a bad proposition, but needs to be appropriately sized and designed. The problem is that the city doesn't do an adequate job of setting boundaries for developers. So many constructions are built right up to the street, creating a permanent eye sore. The location for this proposed building is fairly reasonable, as it is easily accessible from all 4 directions without passing through residential neighborhoods.

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

@jardins - I realize that elderly people live at Sunrise and any construction is going to be annoying, but Assisted Living places are not apartments, they have to adhere to the same rules as nursing homes not apartment complexes.

I think its an appropriate place for a slightly smaller and much more interesting building (no more jail bars though)

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Posted by Yep, Reality
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:23 am

I gotta laugh at Jo Ann, thinking she's going to get anywhere fast by car in this area. Good one! Wish for the moon!
Whenever I need to be somewhere fast in town, I grab a hassles and most always faster door to door. Just locally though. If you grab your car keys for a short in town trip, you are accepting a slower mode of transportation. A car is needed many times, but when I need one, I accept the fact that I'm choosing a slower mode. Welcome to the future of now.

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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

There is too much traffic congestion already in Palo Alto, especially on Page Mill Road and on El Camino. It is lunacy to allow any more building to go on in the city. Who is getting the kickbacks from allowing all these idiotic new buildings to be built on El Camino? We need a moratorium on new building, and not for the Planning Department to propose doubling its staff so we can have another group of deadbeats sitting around for decades waiting for their golden pensions from the city. Moratorium now.

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Posted by Step Back
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Too close to street
Result in TOO much traffic close to gridlocked intersection.

Given the recent history of the Palo Alto planning department and Architectural Review Board, it will be sent back to the developer to be pushed closer to the sidewalks and made made even larger.


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Posted by Sad Sad Sad
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2013 at 10:02 am

Yet another example of the misguided vision of our Planning Board and City Council. Where does this idea that we need "gateways" come from? It is clear from the comments here that few Palo Alto residents look at San Mateo and think "why cant' we grow into that?" The abuse of the Planned Community designation has got to stop. It is being used as a budget device to get money for things the city should do anyway.

Please, let's all remember this when City Council elections come around. Hardly anyone ran last time, and the same fools who are selling our town a piece at a time are still at it.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 9, 2013 at 12:18 am

I don't think they said "world-class" I think it was "world-o-glass"

We are entitled to daylight plane, but that's the point of PC zoning, they ignore all those pesky zoning restrictions.

Our City code also entitles us to so much parkland and open space with new development. Does anyone know how that's calculated and the last time the City felt compelled to add new park space?

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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 9, 2013 at 8:06 am

SteveU is a registered user.

First we let the chance slide by for a turn lane at the site of Polly and Jakes.
Now we (the PTB's) want to build on the other corner. Have these people even looked at the morning commute on Oregon?

Are we trying to turn ECR into a San Francisco Market street?

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Posted by Do the Math
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

If the city wants more people to walk or bikeride, they MUST stop building these oppressive, ugly and humongous buildings right up to the sidewalk--they give off a feeling of intruding on one's personal space, which can give a person a panicky feeling.

Not only that, they simply look cold and unfriendly, sterile even. Probably reflective of the personality of the architect, but they DO NOT belong in Palo Alto. They clash with the softer architecture that prevails here, and stick out like a " turd in a punchbowl", to quote a line from a Nat'l Lampoon movie from long ago.

The city has no business imposing such cold, oppressive eyesores on the residents who are adversely affected by them, the majority of whom do not want them in the city in which they have personal and financial interest,

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm


Why is it when it comes to housing everyone says, if you want to live in Palo Alto you have to be able to pay the price and take what you can afford to buy or build. Yet, when it comes to these office complexes they always want to get away with dumping some "world class" ( don't puke jardins ) ugly, featureless, deficit parking, junk in the middle of our city? What is the reason the city is allowing this?

This is just - feed the public BS and do whatever because they the people who live here are locked out of the political process and cannot do anything about it.

What are the internals of this process and where can we find the weak link to attack it and kill it?

I was ready to say nothing about the building Alma and Lytton, but that thing is really really ugly - unlike most of what is downtown - it looks like something that would be in the middle of Redwood City's industrial center - yet we are hearing how the City learned something from Measure D.

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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Palo Alto needs more housing, not more office space. ABAG has made it clear that we need additional housing to offset the number of people who work but do not live in Palo Alto. Until we have satisfied ABAG's requirements, there is no benefit an office building could offer that would offset increased density. If they want to build office space, then they should comply with current zoning and parking requirements, including setbacks. A luxury apartment building could be just as impressive as a office building.

Although public benefits were proposed that are actually public benefits, they are not the most important ones - which are adding housing, including bmr units, and adding more parking than is required to make up for a major parking deficit. How many of Sunrise's workers and residents park on the street? If there are, based on the planning commission agreeing to too few spaces, then adding spaces to makeup for this failure, would be a real public benefit. A survey of surrounding buildings and the cars parked on the street, would easily identify the parking deficit of that location. At a minimum, they should get no reduction in parking places, especially since the building eliminated many parking spaces.

Also, nothing should be approved without a plan to clean up the superfund site and ensure that none of the construction would cause the toxic plume underneath to migrate further and faster from the site. Ideally, all contaminated soil would be removed. How far down does it go?

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