Town Square

Developer threatens suit after townhome project panned by architectural board

Original post made on Apr 27, 2022

Emboldened by recent state laws, a developer is threatening to sue Palo Alto after the city's Architectural Review Board panned its proposal to construct 48 townhomes next to Greer Park.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 9:30 AM


Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 27, 2022 at 10:39 am

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Oh, good grief. This is a great location for such a project, and it does not stand out in terms of style from the rest of the area. Except for the possible exception of noting a lack of parking, the ARB's criticisms seem very vague and unnecessary. This is why we get a reputation for being difficult. Please save your energy for projects that really are bad and don't fit into the neighborhood.

Posted by plantfruittrees
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 27, 2022 at 10:45 am

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Summerhill Homes is the company whose representative claimed with a straight face at a meeting with the neighbors I attended that adding 28 homes on the old church/daycare site on San Antonio Avenue, while creating a U-shaped new street with no room for fire trucks to maneuver through, would add zero burden (read: students) to the school system. Never mind that the outdated sewer system here couldn't sustain it. That project got rejected so as to keep the land for future schools, and rightfully so. I'm not surprised they're threatening the city--they have demonstrated that integrity is not their strong point. Future fires? They don't care.

Is there anything in the state law that allows cities to require large developers to include schools or other infrastructure in their proposals? Eight three-story buildings--that's a lot of school children to add to the system. Is Palo Alto just supposed to add extra stories to the schools at Palo Alto's expense, disrupting the school year, while the developer walks away? Then where do all those extra children play on the playground during recess?

It's never just about adding a few more housing units. Make them add a school and a playground if they want to build an entire neighborhood's worth.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2022 at 10:58 am

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State law explicitly prohibits a city from considering impacts on schools in environmental review of new housing projects.

Posted by plantfruittrees
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 27, 2022 at 11:10 am

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Thank you, Consider Your Options, that's disappointing but not surprising.

In one part of Summerhill's presentation I mentioned, they talked about building a high-rise on the playground of a school in Washington DC and how great it was that they'd provided all this funding for the school with that purchase. When I asked, But where do the children play? Where do they run now? Where do they get to be kids? I got a blank look, like, why would they need to do that?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 27, 2022 at 11:15 am

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Isn't Summerhill the company that was granted all sorts of variances and concessions in return for promising a supermarket in Edgewood Shopping Center near 101 which they then stalled on, backtracked on etc. until FINALLY residents pressured the city to fine Sumnerhill until they kept its promise? (Why the city always has to be pressured to fine companies that cnsistently violate agreements is beyond me.)

Posted by plantfruittrees
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 27, 2022 at 11:19 am

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Online Name, that was Sand Hill, actually.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 27, 2022 at 11:35 am

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@plantfruittrees, thanks for the correction. Apologies.

Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 27, 2022 at 12:03 pm

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Would be great to see these buildings taller with underground parking, but regardless, I encourage the developer to sue and force NIMBYS to stop making lame excuses to deny new housing.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 27, 2022 at 12:05 pm

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I hope they sue. City of Palo Alto has been, in my opinion, down right criminal in it's resistance and/or refusal to build housing. They deserve to get sued.

Posted by Esther
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 27, 2022 at 2:20 pm

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Underground parking? To the best of my knowledge, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) does not allow underground construction for residential buildings in the flood zone.

“Dry floodproofing is permitted for new and substantially improved non-residential and non-residential portions of mixed-use buildings in Zone A, but not for residential buildings in Zone A or any building in Zone V.” Requirements for the Design and Certification of Dry Floodproofed Non-Residential and Mixed-Use Buildings, p4, Web Link

Posted by SteveDabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2022 at 4:05 pm

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Just another reason to ensure that the initiative returning zoning and development decisions back to local control and blocking the recent and future state mandates gets placed on the 2024 ballot-it is sure to win if it gets that far.

Posted by
a resident of Palo Alto Hills

on Apr 27, 2022 at 5:11 pm is a registered user.

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Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2022 at 6:24 pm

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My take on this project is Summerhill did not follow necessary design elements. Chaotic lines and a variety of materials does not make for good design. Now Hickey is crying foul. Go back to the drawing board and follow directives. Give the city something decent in accordance with the ARB’s standards.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 27, 2022 at 6:30 pm

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@Alb nails it succinctly and accurately.

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 27, 2022 at 6:58 pm

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Despite the recent power grab by the state to try to force us to allow any type of building. I hope that the city will stand up to these developers and uphold some standards. They still need to build quality developments that won't burden the community with too much garbage to look at even if the overcrowd and burden us with over population and pollution.

The city should make a requirement for every new development to be zero net energy and see how the developers like that! That would be Palo Alto leading the way on fighting climate change by addressing use of petroleum products. Plus we should call out that they need to use cement and all building products that are sustainably sourced.

Posted by ArtL
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2022 at 7:14 pm

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Mr. Hickey (VP developmentof Sumerhill), I think you woke up and put your pants on backwards. Instead of having your development face the park, with its trees and green open spaces, it is designed to face 101 - or more accurately an ugly sound wall your company would construct to partially, but only partially block the incessant noise from the cars and trucks. Did you really think this through?

Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Apr 29, 2022 at 10:51 am

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Palo Alto’s planning head says they follow all the objective criteria, but once again Palo Alto wants to block and delay needed housing. The developer is going to have to sue, and we Palo Alto citizens are going to have to pay extra court costs and legal judgments, until Palo Alto stops playing games and approves housing that follows all the objective criteria

Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Apr 29, 2022 at 2:55 pm

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Summerhill is the company that built the Mammoth development that replaced the Palo Alto Clinic downtown. They are used to fighting neighbors objections and city rules. They have unlimited lawyer money.

Great to see the ARB doing their job. Thank you!

Posted by Ryan
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 30, 2022 at 1:41 pm

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People who think more housing will lower rents has never been to a big city

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 30, 2022 at 5:15 pm

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The ARB pans projects for only one reason: insufficient ugliness

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2022 at 11:05 am

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So it seems 4 suits against PA have been threatened in the past week per the PA Weekly and Daily Post.

I hope PA does not continue to cave into all threatened lawsuits.

With the Foothills Park and previous threatened suits, IMO, PA has established that the best way to get what you want is to threaten to sue.

Only when PA stops folding will lawsuits become less frequent. Or at least not the initial line of action.

I believe the City has the right to say "NO". All they seem to be asking for in the above is better quality materials so the development does not look like junk in a few years.

Summerhill does not enjoy a solid reputation; seems to make enemies wherever they build.

The head of Planning should show more respect to the Commissioners and not undermine them. That is not helping the process.

Posted by toransu
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2022 at 12:38 am

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I continue enjoying see the city council play stupid games and win stupid prizes! The absolute clownery they embody is honestly stunning.