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Modernist building gets approval, mixed reception

Original post made on Oct 18, 2013

Everyone agrees that the latest downtown development to win approval from Palo Alto's architectural board will bring an eye-catching touch of modernity to a eclectic block on downtown's periphery. For some nearby residents, however, that is not a good thing.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 18, 2013, 11:59 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2013 at 11:32 pm

2 residential units, 4,800 sq feet of office space, but only 21 parking space, and they have the gall to "laud" the developer? This city is crazy. That building will need to park at least 40 cars a day, so a net negative of ~20 spots when parking is already a terrible problem. Randy Popp must be doing everyday math to think that 21 spots is a "solution."

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 1:13 am

Buildings with side windows stuck up against each other, go do a street view of this to see how ugly this is. If there was some setback it's not a bad building, it is just stuck in the middle of what look like houses and apartments ... leading the way to the San Francisco-ation of Palo Alto. Why doesn't our city council quit and go try to live in San Francisco where they seem to really want to be?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 1:14 am

> The board, however, generally agreed that after three public hearings and repeated modifications, it's time to move the project ahead.

NO ... it's time to fire the Architectural Review Board - and the City Council.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2013 at 7:53 am

I suppose that this is what they say is letting the public have its say!

Plenty had their say and it made not an iota of difference.

This looks like someone got out their lego blocks and idly played away. It is a mismatch of glass, walls and angles everywhere. They call this building having an eye-catching touch of modernity!

It will be more than eye-catching, I can just hear the ear-bashing when it is completed.

Posted by Listen up! Fools
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:52 am

The council, ARD and planning commission never listen to the voices of the people, whom they forget that in whose interest they are here to serve.

This situation is more like a dictatorship than a democracy.

To make matters worse, these totalitarian powers that be are tasteless when it comes to art and architecture. They all need education in aesthetics and the difference between "eye-catching" and "eyesore". They are obviously ignorant in that respect.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Amen!! Listen Up! Fools. The uglification of PA continues. To what purpose?

Posted by Honor Spitz
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Sadly, it would seem as though many of the reasons for which people live in a Palo Alto are bring obliterated. It would also appear as though many of the changes in development are being decided by a very few, and by those who are blind and deaf to the voices of their constituency !! All the more pity.
There are elections coming up though, so be sure to voice your opinions in that way!!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Got this from the PA website:

ARB Purpose
The Architectural Review Board is charged with design review of all new construction, and changes and additions to commercial, industrial and multiple-family projects. The Board's goals and purposes are to:

Promote orderly and harmonious development of the City
Enhance the desirability of residence or investment in the City
Encourage the attainment of the most desirable use of land and improvements
Enhance the desirability of living conditions upon the immediate site or in adjacent areas
Promote visual environments which are of high aesthetic quality and variety and which, at the same time, are considerate of each other.

Given the approval when compared to their mission, IMHO they have failed on points 1, 2, 4 & 5. 3 is a push.

One spot opens up in 2014. The other 4 spots are open in 2015. Change cannot come soon enough.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm

It is time to get rid of this Architectural Review Board. It is totally out of step with the community, the neighborhoods,
the essence of Palo Alto. Who ARE these people? What are their qualifications? Are they out of work architects looking for a job? Their taste is not in step with the residents. Time to rethink this Board and the qualifications to get on it. Come to thing of it, that would be good for the Council too. Time to clean house and start all over with people who care about this city. After the Cheesecake Factory, 801 Alma, the Lytton Gateway, and other monstrosities, how do the residents get back control of their city?

Posted by Bizarre design
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2013 at 11:06 pm

The ARB has a built-in conflict of interest. They work for local architects and if they criticize too much, they won't get the lucrative jobs.
It has been proven that the building does not have the required parking.
It is so inappropriate for that street, it's a crime.
I walked past the building, it is now a charming modest structure that fits with its neighbors. I think the new design is bizarre. Really bizarre.

Posted by Social Butterfly
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 20, 2013 at 1:27 am

There are a few sites on Facebook that talks about the "Old Palo Alto" and how great it had been growing up here~ plus a little history facts unknown that are interesting. There are a lot of comments about how much the town has changed and of people growing up here getting priced out of the market. Not to also mention the disgust of buildings being torn down and of criticism of the City Council, Architecture Review Board.
I recommend scanning through a few of these comments to see what the "real" Palo Altoans think of all the changes............
"You know you're from Palo Alto when.." is the site.

Posted by imaginary blue sky
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2013 at 7:48 am

What is the translucent line drawing next to the building sketch? It that the parking lift or another building?

The current location has two single family home w/ some off-street surface parking between them. How many of these existing spots are being removed and replaced w/the 21?

Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 8:07 am

Kate asks "how do we get control back?" Through the initiative process we
create a new "design review function" which would be a recognized design
professional/firm hired by and responsible to a citizen committee. This
review function would have to sign off on all private/public projects for
aesthetics and compatibility. The Cheesecake Factory, approved by the ARB
and staff ten years ago which was a warning signal of a totally broken
system, 801 Alma, Lytton Gateway,all the rest of a long and growing list of
bad to horrendous projects, would not have happened. It would establish boundaries for what could be done and what is acceptable, where there are no
boundaries now. Just having such a review function in place would probably lead to the submittal of better projects to start with as we start to clean up the whole process.

Posted by B
a resident of University South
on Oct 20, 2013 at 11:51 pm

What the heck is a lift? Have they even considered the noise disturbance to people who live in this neighborhood? I live in this neighborhood just a block from the approved project. The History Review Board gave permission to demolish much of the beautiful garden surrounding the lovely building (constructed 1927) for which I reside and to demolish portions of the interior including the bicycle room! This to make way for even more offices. So much for this "green" town unless it has something to do with the almighty dollar. Greed prevails in Palo Alto now. It's quite difficult to live in downtown with all the jackhammers, cement trucks, construction debris, dust and smell of chemicals used in this process on a daily basis with no end in sight, apparently.

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2013 at 11:54 am

"Eye-catching" on paper = Eyesore when actually built.

How come this continues after all the architectural fiascos of years past (JCC, Alma Plaza, Mitchell Park, etc.)? When will they learn?

BTW, please, vote no on D.

This will send a clear message to the city that we've had enough of their "unique" projects.

Posted by Tina Peak
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Previous posts are correct. The ARB has to be changed because they are all architects who are beholden to their firms and their friends. But more importantly they are appointed by a city council that has shown their true colors which is to overbuild and destroy the character of Palo Alto. Until we throw out the city council and elect members to represent the interests of residents and not developers, we will continue to see appointees to the architectural and planning boards that also love and approve of over development. Right now remember to e-mail city council your views, (or if you can stand their long meeting speak in person), send them a message by voting No on Measure D, encourage your neighborhoods to fight over-development and plan to support residential city council hopefuls next year. We have to clear out the developer friendly council members and then give direction to the city staff and manager to repair our city and keep if liveable and sustainable.

Posted by imaginary blue sky
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm

The ARB are ALL architects or consultants to architects. The CPA website indicated "at least three of whom are architects, landscape architects, building designers or other design professionals". They are listed below where I added in parentheses their titles from LinkedIn and/or Yelp. Note that Randy Popp was the lead architect on the JCC.

From ARB website:

The Board is composed of five members, at least three of whom are architects, landscape architects, building designers or other design professionals. Terms are for three years and commence on October 1. See Palo Alto Municipal Code (PAMC) Sections 2.16 and 16.48. In order to be notified of vacancies and appointment procedures, you may contact the City Clerk's Office at 329-2571.

If you wish to send e-mail to the Architectural Review Board, please use the following e-mail address:

Regular meetings are at 8:30 a.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month and are cablecast live on Government Channel 16.

Chair: Clare Malone Prichard
Vice Chair: Lee Lippert
Staff Liaison: Russ Reich, Planner - 650-617-3119

LEW, Alexander (consultant, Architecture and Planning)
372A Bush Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
Term Expires: 9/30/2015

MALONE PRICHARD, Clare (Senior Project Architect/Project Manager at Fergus Garber Young Architects)
81 Encina Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Term Expires: 9/30/2014

GOOYER, Robert (Robert Gooyer, AIA Principal at RCG Architecture)
2074 Kehoe Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94403
650-349-6549 (w)
Term Expires: 9/30/2015

LIPPERT, Lee (AIA Architect)
580 Hawthorne Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Term Expires: 9/30/2015

POPP, Randy (AIA - self employed at own architecture firm)
212 High Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Term Expires: 9/30/2015

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Tina-- why don't You runfor city council. You have been critical of the building situation in the city for years. Also do not take the comments here as indicative of the feelings of the resdents as a whole ( malcontents like myself andtina at alwaya more vocal) .
The residents continue to elect and reelect the council members and they continue to do whatbthey do. Thee is a reason thatbthe ARB is made up of architects-- think about it. I personally do not like the council and think the ARB is too nit picky. I also like much of the new buildings being put up-- I do not like Spanish colonial and think Eichler was a hack!!
If people are really unhappy, they could launch a recall forthe entire council.

Posted by Fer shur
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I think calling Joe Eichler hack insults hacks! Spanish colonials are okay, but get tiresome. The point is that a new building should be in keeping with the character of its surrounding neighborhood, to stand out like a gangrenous sore thumb.

Obviously, the architects on the ARB either did NOT graduate in the top three-quarters of their respective classes, or they are just architectural hookers.

Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I thnk it'll be OK for this patricular place - right now it's horribly looking rental properties owners don't care to maintain properly

Posted by Member
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Not withstanding the interpretation of architectural correctness the San Jose Mercury News 10/20/13 "Developer gets another chance in housing battle" discusses the law case of the city of Palo Alto vs John Mozart of Classic Communities regarding the Sterling Park units and the city policy of percentage of affordable housing. The decision regarding this case is still TBD with the California Supreme Court but affects all new development, including south to San Jose. The question on the table is the number of units that will be offered at below market value. Fees are charged to the project developers relative to the codes applied to the units. Since this is applicable to all new development within Palo Alto and there is a law suit in process this will be applicable to the Maybell development as well as any new development which includes residential units.
This needs to be a topic of discussion at the beginning of any new development and published as part of the total package approval. The ARB needs to consider this as they coordinate the approval of new development.

Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2013 at 6:40 pm


Thanks for bringing up this lawsuit. I wish I actually understood more about affordable housing in connection with new building in Palo Allto.

1. Affordable housing is "run" by CIty Hall? WHat does that mean?
2. They give the management of properties to people like PAHC? WHo owns the properties?
3. Commercial developments are forced to build affordable housing for 20% of their development?
4. If they don't build the affordable housing they are forced to pay 20%? Reason for the lawsuit you refer to?
5. WHere is the money from the fees, who manages it, how are decisions made to spend it?

Back to the original topic,

The whole process of appointing commissioners to the ARB is not right.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 26, 2013 at 4:20 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

From my perspective the owners have every right to legally benefit from their investment as the demand for office space and condos surges in this part of downtown.

The corner of Forest buildings are both fairly dense condo developments, The Wells Fargo bank across Waverley is a tall office building also with lots of glass. it is likely that these opportunities will come to the other owners on Waverley and perhaps Cowper as time passes.

The area between Hamilton and Forest for the streets toward campus all have office, retail and other dense uses.

I can think of lots of homes that I don;t like to look at or are too close to the street for my taste. But it is none of my business.

Homeowners in Palo Alto are adding second stories, doing continual renovations and would, if we had permission, add granny unit--I support the concept. Why should the Waverley owner not have the same rights and courtesy from us.

FYI, the new building on Waverley is directly in view from our back windows. But that is ok as is the possibility that the best place form a community perspective fir a new parking garage might be right on our block.

Posted by Yes, it is
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm

It IS your business if you have to look at it, live in its shadow ( literally) or feel an oppressive sensation of being in a box canyon when you drive by. It IS your business if it is unavoidably in your face, affects your property value, causes excessive traffic or noise in your neighborhood ( and the smog that accompany that), or in any way lowers your quality of life.

One's surroundings affect one's moods; remember East Germany and the rampant psychological depression there that became public knowledge when The Wall came down? I was in Dresden shortly after that; the sterile, colorless buildings that edged up to the sidewalks, lack of landscaping, etc, felt very oppressive, repressed, and depressing.

A house down the street from mine was torn down and a very austere house with odd, severe lines was built in its place. it was so ugly it took three years for the contractor to sell it. One year, at a block,party, the subject of this ugly house was brought up, and the man who lived across the street from it said it was a real downer of a way to start his day, having to look at this ugly thing every morning when he went out to his car. He started parking his car further and further up the street, but the house was still in his peripheral vision, regardless. Since they don't make blinders for human beings, he decided to put a for sale sign on his house. However, it took over two years to sell his house, because, real estate agents and an appraiser told him that living so near that ugly home was considered a detraction, not only making his own house hard to sell, but lowering its value to below what it had been before the ugly one was ever built. He made so little profit from the sale of his home ( he had lived in it less than seven years), that he had to buy in Eichlerville in order to stay in Palo Alto and keep his kids in school here.

Definitely a case of an ugly building ruining a whole family's lives!

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Love your fable, yes it is, of the man and the ugly house. Please give us the exact address of this ugly ( fantasy ) house. And when you are driving, you should pay attention to the road, but if you have oppressive feelings when you drive you should consider no longer driving. But to be honest, I feel the same way as that man did when I see an Eichler.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm

You're both wrong.

This building building walls right up to the windows of the surrounding buildings. This is how the townhouses of New York and other very dense cities developed. They had ridiculous situations where one window opened right into another window. Then people had to brick up their windows, and pretty soon they just build buildings that were wall to wall.

If you are saying this cannot be stopped, or regulated, or is in some way desirable, I think most of Palo Alto would disagree. If it was true, why do we even have an architectural review board - just to waste more money so the cronies of those in political power can have suck up friends and peers who can afford to live here and do nothing?

LOOK at the picture. Perhaps they should have shown a picture of the previous view. Well here it is on Google Maps ... click street view and look at the differences. Architects are supposed to be professionals with training to consider multiple variables at the same time and come up with a reasonable compromise. Just because a WalMart might fit there, is that reason to build it or allow it? Not to me.

Web Link

Meanwhile, I cannot do anything like that on my property (nor would I want to, or my neighbors to) What make Steven Levy or Not Any Issue the arbiters of what Palo Alto should have to want to put up with, just because they can throw around some generalities about what development has brought about elsewhere?

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