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Palo Alto deals setback to planned foothills home

Original post made on Jan 24, 2023

Building in the foothills is, by nature, a sensitive subject in Palo Alto but the design team behind a Los Trancos Road proposal had some reasons to feel optimistic going into Monday's City Council review.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 9:45 AM

Comments (8)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2023 at 11:14 am

felix is a registered user.

Thank goodness sense prevailed last night for 4 of 6 Council members. Their decision didn't just effect this wealthy applicant's 5-acre parcel, or Palo Alto, but, as was stated in great informed detail by Sierra Club, Green Foothills, MROSD and Audubon, an entire riparian ecosystem and it's habitat would be effected at the project site and downstream if allowed to build so close to Los Trancos Creek.

When one chooses to live in Open Space zoning, there is a responsibility to be a steward of the land, creeks, and all that lives there. It is not just a building site for villas and pools.

Yes, it is time for the City to consolidate its standards into a single one. But that was no reason for Council to ignore it has them. The applicant may still build a giant house on their 5-acre parcel, but further away from the creek with wildlife appropriate lighting, and windows, sans fence.

It was no surprise that Council member, "...moved the cheese here by 30-feet", Tanaka had no expressed concern for the environment given his history of supporting development. It was more interesting that Haims-Lythcott voted with Tanaka, expressing great sympathy for the applicant, while giving a mere nod for any environmental concerns - creek, what creek? I assume we will see many more such votes from this pro-development duo.

a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 24, 2023 at 1:10 pm

STAN@OSTASSOC.COM is a registered user.

The "Palo Alto" process strikes again. Is it any wonder that many contractors categorically refuse to do any business - even remodeling - in Palo Alto? Capricious reinvention of the rules at the whim of individuals whose only real goal is to see if they can wear down a property owner into abandoning private projects needs to be terminated. A city council should be given 1 opportunity to say yea or nay at the onset of a proposal to use privately owned property for private purposes in a manner that conforms to the rules in place at the time of the proposal. After that the final approval is up to the planning staff to insure that the proposed design conforms to those rules.
The parcel in question has been under consideration for use as a home site for well over 30 years and the various owners have been jerked around by objections of others who live both nearby or miles away and whose only vested interest is to control the lives of others. I would submit that 99+ percent of the people who live in Palo Alto have no idea where this site is and have no real interest in the outcome of this project.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2023 at 6:06 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

I do not agree with Stan's posting or with the article not mentioning the number of emails sent to the City Council about not approving this proposed home.

One would think that with our recent flooding 2nd to a larger than expected "atmospheric river" that it is reasonable to change the rules regarding building next to a Creek. More of these heavy rainfall events are forecast for the future.

The Creek flows thru the owners property but they do not "own" the Creek.

What is built next to the Creek influences all the other landowners and homes downstream. I would think if this permit is allowed homeowners down stream could sue Palo alto for not protecting the Creek and their property.

So we have a 5.28 ac. lot, a 7,245 sq. ft. house and a 894 sq. ft. ADU. All of which MUST be built within 20 ft. of the Creek. Seems like some sq. footage could be removed and not really be missed.

I hope Palo Alto continues to value OUR environment and has the courage to make zoning law changes to protect our wildlife and creeks. Sometimes it is necessary to change "midstream" when new evidence is presented or when global warming has been shown to be accelerating faster than we anticipated.

As for builders not wanting to work in Palo Alto, please drive around almost any street in Crescent Park or other parts of Palo Alto and listen to the sound of constant building and reconstruction....... guess there are builders who don't mind the PA process.

Thank you.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 24, 2023 at 7:27 pm

Rose is a registered user.

Thank you City Council for protecting the natural environment from a home and ADU (clubhouse?) that was planned way too close to Los Trancos Creek. I’m also glad to hear that reducing night lighting and protecting birds and all wildlife are influencing the City’s thinking. Bravo.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2023 at 9:51 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

As your District 7 Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Director, I am thrilled to hear that this proposed development was rejected on the ground that it is too close to a waterway.

As others stated, building close to a creek or other waterway - like this proposed mansion - is harmful not just to the homeowner, but to the entire community. As the drought/flood cycle continues (and is expected to increase), science has confirmed that one of the most effective ways to protect against flooding is to avoid development too close to waterways in the first place. This is a fact here like everywhere in the West. And, as much as this has its disadvantages, Palo Alto needs to let go of some of its height limitations, because when developers are not allowed to build up, they tend to build out, which is the most harmful way to build (converting office to housing, & forcing ghost houses to be used would help also).

I am thrilled to hear that the city is (finally) considering a ban on development within 150 feet of riparian lands. If the City is truly interested in protecting the community from floods, it will follow through on that restriction. 50 feet is not enough.

As to Council Member Lythcott-Haims and others who criticize a "moving target," I urge you to consider the bigger picture. Climate change has accelerated more quickly than many people (and most governments) expected, and we face a certainty - not a possibility - of multiple feet of sea level rise within the next few decades. Additionally, every day at least 200 species go extinct. We are in an existential crisis.

Although changing our policies in order to save our literal *world* may be inconvenient, it is essential if we want to continue life - any life - on Earth. This is not an overstatement.

As elected officials we owe our constituents and communities policies that protect them/us not just today, but into the future. This is an area where local govt can - and must - make a positive difference.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2023 at 9:35 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"As to Council Member Lythcott-Haims and others who criticize a "moving target," I urge you to consider the bigger picture. Climate change has accelerated more quickly than many people (and most governments) expected, .."

Not only is the above true, but also the unthinking reflexive insistence on "build, baby, build" is dangerous and counter-productive in a city that allegedly prides itself on being so sustainable it insists we buy new cars, new appliances and new furnaces in the middle of a recession.

Where are our forward-looking "leaders" in our "Planning" department who blindly let the approval process get this far? Don't they talk to our "Sustainability" people? Did they miss the recent floods?

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2023 at 10:04 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I'm thinking about recent news reported elsewhere, stating that the declining population in China is supposed to cause some kind of downward trend that could topple theirs and other nations. And the huge ice shelf that cut itself in half the other day due to climate change. Also, the more disturbing news that the doomsday clock is now set at 90 seconds to midnight. With all of this, WHY would anyone want to build a monstrosity next to a creek where it is guaranteed to wash down the hill, taking wildlife and human lives as the debris flows down into a populated area? What the H E double toothpicks has humanity become? A race to the end? He who dies with the most toys wins? Them thats got ADU's gonna solve the housing crisis? What the ...... (SMH)

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 26, 2023 at 12:45 am

Mondoman is a registered user.

@ R Eisenberg
Re: "...we face a certainty - not a possibility - of multiple feet of sea level rise within the next few decades"

I had not heard about this -- can you provide references? My understanding was that any worrisome sea level rise would take hundreds to a few thousand years to appear.

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