Palo Alto officials are considering imposing new conditions, including an environmental study and additional "public benefits," on a developer who demolished a historic building at the former Edgewood Plaza shopping center without permission from the city last fall.
Sand Hill Property Company angered residents near the Channing Avenue plaza in September when it demolished a historic building on the plaza in violation of its agreement with the city.
The developer had been involved in years of negotiations with area residents about upgrading and redeveloping the dilapidated center -- a rare example of a Joseph Eichler-developed commercial center. Last fall, after the two sides finally reached an agreement, the City Council approved a zone change that would allow Sand Hill to relocate one of the existing three retail buildings, build 10 homes and a grocery store, and create a 0.2-acre park.
The "planned community" zone also required the developer to preserve two "historically significant" retail structures, one of which would be rehabilitated in place while the other would be disassembled, relocated and rehabilitated. Instead of disassembling that building, however, the applicant surprised the city by demolishing it without receiving a demolition permit or any other approval. After fielding complaints from residents, the city in September issued a "stop order" on the project.
Sand Hill has maintained that it opted to demolish what's known as "Building #1" because it was found to be in too poor condition to be retained. Its historic consultant, Page & Turnbull, submitted a letter to the city this week stating that "much of the material used in its construction was not repairable, was not in good condition, and would need to be replaced with new materials to match the material, configuration, character and finish of the original."
The company also found that three walls of the separate grocery building, which is no longer considered "historic" by the city, were also "in too poor condition and had to be replaced with compatible new materials."
Staff noted in the new report that "the applicant failed to follow the approved review process and disposed of the building material without notifying the City or obtaining City approval."
On Monday, the council will consider what to do about that.
In the new report, staff planners recommend that the developer be required to perform an additional environmental-impact report, reflecting the new scope of the project. Another recommendation is to put on hold what is for the developer the most financially lucrative portion of the development -- the construction of 10 homes.
The new report also recommends that the city allow Sand Hill to proceed with the construction of the grocery store and the rehabilitation of the building it didn't demolish.
Sand Hill, for its part, has agreed to completely rebuild the building it took down, though this would be done with new materials rather than ones retained from the prior building.