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Developer looks to build 75 housing units, office building near California Avenue Caltrain station

Original post made on Mar 5, 2021

After years of struggling to promote housing development, Palo Alto is suddenly awash with proposals, with most targeting the area near California Avenue. The latest of these would bring 75 units and office space to 123 Sherman Ave.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 5, 2021, 12:44 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 5, 2021 at 5:43 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

It would be interesting to know the amount of office space in the existing buildings, so we could get a better idea of how much change is being proposed.

That said, at least this project is close to a jobs/housing balance. 75 units at an average of 2.3 workers per unit is about 173 workers. 35996 square feet at 150 to 250 (depending on layout) square feet per worker is 144 to 240 workers.

The TDM plan will be crucial, given that there's certainly a shortage of parking.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2021 at 6:45 pm

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No more offices, especially under-parked ones. Just say no and make it all housing.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2021 at 11:20 pm

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Since 2014 Palo Alto’s met 92% of its RHNA share of market rate housing and needs no more. We also don’t need anymore offices that only cause more demand for more housing. It only takes up land, raising its value.

We do badly need a lot more below market rate housing. The tiny bit of affordable housing set aside in market rate projects is pitiful. The way to get a lot of affordable housing built is for the state and/or feds to directly fund non-profit affordable housing developers. It’s that simple.

If Gov. Newsom and Scott Wiener were serious about affordable housing they would fund it - but don’t kill. You’ll know when they are serious if and when they do.

Posted by LaVonne Miranda
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2021 at 6:24 am

LaVonne Miranda is a registered user.

This new development sounds like a good idea in concept.

Hopefully the city will erect a large sound wall between the tracks and apartments to eliminate the sounds of passing trains.

Also Caltrains will need to restrain from using their whistles when approaching the California Avene station so as not to disturb those who are sleeping.

Lastly, will the early AM gravel and freight trains be re-routed? They too are very noisy.

Quality of life in Palo Alto has reached new depths and city administrators must strive to reduce all of the distractions and ambient noise.

Posted by Bart Anderson
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 6, 2021 at 9:03 am

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I live in the neighborhood. More housing and development is probably inevitable here.
I think we could handle more people. What is a problem is the increased traffic - and the increased noise, stress and accidents. Anything we can do to encourage people to walk or cycle will make the area more liveable.
Reserving California Avenue for restaurants, walking and cycling has made the area much more pleasant.

Posted by Jamie Beckett
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 6, 2021 at 12:36 pm

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I live in this neighborhood. This article reads like it was taken directly from a Smith Company press release. Among other things, it fails to mention that the developer plans to vastly exceed the city's height and density limits with a structure that would tower over everything else in the vicinity and would block the sunlight for hundreds of nearby residents. The developer envisions apartments only slightly larger than SRO units, but expects to collect market rates for them. Sure we want housing, but who is this housing supposed to be for? Surely not anyone who really plans to make their home in Palo Alto. The zoning changes sought by this developer are a cynical ploy to cram in more unneeded offices under the pretense of providing housing.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 6, 2021 at 1:05 pm

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Doesn't the plan for the building have to be approved by the city? There is what the developer wants and what is appropriate for that location.

Posted by Carol Scott
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 6, 2021 at 1:33 pm

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Has anyone totaled up all of the new workers and new residents all of the approved and proposed projects would bring to their area? Has anyone figured out how the small streets and limited access in and out of the area will handle so much traffic? In particular, has anyone thought about the increased danger to bicyclists and pedestrians that such traffic will bring? And, lastly, does anyone doubt that the developers plan to under-park both commercial and residential buildings and employ the discredited ruse of a TDM? No TDM in the City has ever been looked at once it is signed, much less enforced. I agree that the article reads like a press release for Smith.

Posted by Paige
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2021 at 6:21 pm

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I am a member of the public. Housing is not a "public benefit", unless I can use it.

A public park is a public benefit. I can use that. A public library is a public benefit. I can use that. A public road is a public benefit. I can use that. Sales tax is a public benefit, so long as it is spent on things I use or benefit from. Not only can I use these things, but public decision makers control them, and I can vote for those decision makers.

"Private" housing is never a public benefit. Let's be clear. "Diversity" might be a public benefit, but that is a second order equation. Does this project promise economic, racial, religious, or cultural diversity in the housing? Or are we just housing more tech workers?

I don't disagree with encouraging more housing as a matter of policy. I disagree with institutional dysfunction and euphemism. I remember when the old PC zones were abused with dinkly little public spaces called "parks" and boring little public chachkis called "public art" in return for granting huge density bonuses. And I remember when "transit" mean Cal train, until it meant a bus route on ECR, and then it meant anywhere, it was just a meaningless word like "all natural."

How is this different or better?

The easiest way to balance between office and housing is to charge the full market price for affordable housing impact fee to proposed office development. Joe Simitian calls it "full mitigation." Currently this is over $200sf of which Palo Alto actually charges about ~25$/sf.

Charge the full amount. If it kills the office project then you know that it was subsidized all along.

Stop subsidizing office and the housing market will quickly take off.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 6, 2021 at 9:17 pm

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Google recently closed its campuses to outsiders citing concerns about protests shortly after getting final approval for their big development projects.

POOF went all the wonderful promised "public benefits" of heir "park-like villages with winding streams, community playgrounds and whatever else sounded good when pitching the project.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2021 at 11:26 am

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Working on this plan for two years or two generations?

Posted by Resident near the site
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 9, 2021 at 11:56 am

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This plan is completely unethical and not suitable for this community for 3 reasons. The plan is to build a massive 5-story building towering right up against a big apartment complex that's only 2 and 3 story high. This plan completely ignores the fact that hundreds of families live next to the site. Besides this unethical planning, the residential units they are proposing is micro-apartments that is more suitable for single-person occupancy in a large, densely-populated city such as San Francisco and NYC. This type of apartments will only attract transient type of tenants who will not grow their roots in the community. Our community has many families who hope to grow kids here and be a part of the community for a long time. My third concern is the traffic on Park Blvd. It was already bad and hard to cross the street in pre-pandemic time. Now with the 2 approved new buildings right across from this site; one is teachers' apartments, and other is public safely building on Sharman ave., the city will have to put traffic lights on Park Blvd. It will make driving into Page Mill road from Park a nightmare.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2021 at 12:44 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Here's a map with bike routes (which are different from the route you might take in a car) around Palo Alto Web Link . You can see there are easy bike routes to Cal Ave from almost anywhere in Palo Alto--or regionally, for that matter. Almost no one in Palo Alto lives far from Cal Ave. I live near Piazza's, about as far from Cal Ave as you can be and still be in Palo Alto. It takes me 17 minutes to get to Cal Ave restaurants, stores and farmers market from my home by bike. I ride at a very leisurely pace--I don't even break a sweat. It's a nice ride on Park Boulevard. For folks who live in north PA, and the east side of PA, there is a separated bike/pedestrian railroad underpass that gets you directly to the Cal Ave train station and businesses. My husband and I often enjoy a bike ride to Cal Ave for dinners out. The ride perks us up so we enjoy dinner dates more, and we can have guilt-free dessert because we will burn some calories on the way home. (Please remember to light up with head lights and rear reflective lights if you ride after dark as we do. Be safe. Be seen. Also, if you are going to shop, it's a good idea to have pannier bags or a trailer to bring home your purchased goods.

Posted by CalAveLocal
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 9, 2021 at 2:18 pm

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Hands down we need more affordable housing in Palo Alto. This proposal is not what we need.
I think developers are being intentionally dishonest, asking for too many code waivers and while calling this a planned community project it appears that community would not benefit from it at all; and residents of Palo Alto Central condo community will be extremely negatively effected due to a towering building that will block sunlight for dozens of condos and inability to get in and out of the parking garage, especially during commute hours. A project like that would perhaps work at a former Fry's lot where it will not negatively effect existing community. Also, something tells me that these units will only be affordable to young tech crowd.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 9, 2021 at 3:15 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

We need more truly affordable housing, not more high-density MARKET RATE units like those they're trying to shove into College Terrace. When the YIMBY's start insisting that 50% or more of the units they push for aren't just more expensive units that can be converted to condos, I MIGHT believe they're not just developer pawns doing the bidding of their rich developer and high tech backers.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2021 at 5:05 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Another good bike map for riding around Palo Alto, including the Cal Ave and Park Blvd areas, can be found here Web Link

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Mar 9, 2021 at 7:04 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2021 at 9:36 am

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This is quite probably not the right time to make some of these big decisions about office space and rabbit hutch high rises for workers to live in nearby.

Working from home, either part time or full time, is going to be the way for the future office workers in Silicon Valley. Many offices are planning their space for when office workers return with the idea that most will only return to the office part time and hybrid designs are being configured instead of the individual space pre-pandemic.

Posted by Old PA Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2021 at 8:19 pm

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Still don't understand why we let developers create market rate apartments while letting them bypass building codes. Old Palo Alto just put in a parking permit program (now we have to pay to park in front of our house) because there was so much overflow parking from California Ave. Now we might let them build a huge building without enough parking spots? What is wrong with this picture?

Posted by Local
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 15, 2021 at 12:20 am

Local is a registered user.

We need more office developments like this. Palo Alto has tons of really cheap housing - so much that many houses are empty as nobody want it. Office, on the other hard, we are desperately short off. If we could build more offices we might even attract some of those shiny new hi-tech firms that other places get.

So bring it on - a new development of offices with one of two houses thrown in.

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