Palo Alto has postponed a public hearing on Jay Paul's massive development proposal after learning last week that the main public benefit of the proposal -- a new police station -- isn't shaking out as the city had hoped.
The city's Planning and Transportation Commission was scheduled to discuss Wednesday evening a proposal by the San Francisco developer to build two four-story commercial buildings at 395 Page Mill Road, site of AOL's Silicon Valley headquarters. Because the site is already developed to the zoning capacity, Jay Paul is applying for a "planned community" zone, which would allow it to exceed density regulations in exchange for negotiated public benefits. The chief of these is a new police building, which under Jay Paul's plan would be attached to a four-story parking garage that the police would share with the office workers.
The Jay Paul proposal had energized the City Council, which is currently planning for a 2014 infrastructure bond and which considers a new public-safety building one of its highest priorities. But at last week's meeting of the council's Infrastructure Committee, members learned that the proposed police building is far from a sure shot.
Police Chief Dennis Burns said the city's architectural consultant, Michael Ross, has been evaluating the proposed design with Jay Paul's architect and had determined that building a police station on the proposed site would not be operationally feasible. The announcement surprised the council, which minutes earlier gave tacit approval to planning staff for an accelerated timeline for reviewing the Jay Paul proposal.
Now, the city is being forced to tap the brakes. The planning commission decided not to proceed with its review of the "planned community" proposal until a later date, which has not yet been specified but which will come after the May 7 meeting of the Infrastructure Committee, according to Assistant Planning Director Aaron Aknin. At that meeting, the committee will hear a progress report form Ross about problems with the police-building proposal.
Aaron Aknon said the meeting was postponed "in order to give the City's architect and applicant's architect additional time to work together on the design of the proposed public-safety building."
The city has been considering options for a new police headquarters for well over a decade, with numerous experts and citizen committees concluding that the existing headquarters in City Hall are too small and seismically deficient.