After years of disputes, appeals and revisions, a developer hoping to construct a three-story building on Page Mill Road and Park Boulevard will return to the City Council tonight in hopes of finally getting the green light for his contentious project.
Harold Hohbach has been trying to build the mixed-use development at 195 Page Mill Road for more than five years and had even succeeded in getting the City Council's approval in 2006. But since then, it's been rough going for the project, which includes research-and-development space along with 84 rental units. The council's approval was ultimately revoked because of a lawsuit from residents who claimed Hohbach hadn't done enough to evaluate the impact of vapors emitted by contaminated groundwater under the site.
Since then, Hohbach had resubmitted his plan and switched the housing component from rental units to condominiums. More recently, he switched back to rental units, with 17 of 84 designated as below-market-rate apartments. The plan, however, hit another stumbling block in October when council members criticized the development's design and directed Hohbach to resubmit his proposal. The council concluded in October that the project conflicts with the city's Comprehensive Plan (its land-use bible) and directed Hohbach to apply under the "pedestrian- and transient-oriented development" (PTOD) designation, which can only pertain to projects near major transit hubs (the site is currently zoned for "general manufacturing").
Councilman Pat Burt argued at the Oct. 3 meeting that the proposed layout, with its large walls and interior courtyards, would be too massive when viewed from the outside and would not appeal to pedestrians. Councilwoman Karen Holman then directed the applicant to return under PTOD zoning (which would lead to, among other things, a less dense project), a request that her council colleagues backed with no dissent.
So far, however, the developer has resisted the council's direction that he revise the project and resubmit it under a different zoning designation. Jim Janz, Hohbach's attorney, wrote a letter to the council last week criticizing its finding that the project conflicts with the city's Comprehensive Plan.
Janz encouraged the council to green-light the project, which has already received the blessing of the city's Architectural Review Board (albeit, by a 3 to 2 vote). Janz asked the council to approve the project, deny the opponents' appeal and "allow the Project to proceed to obtaining a building permit and begin construction as soon as possible, thus providing much needed rental housing with 17 affordable units and R&D space for Palo Alto."
The council meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. tonight with a closed session. Regular meeting will follow in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.