Palo Alto officials remain optimistic about the prospect of building a new police headquarters on Park Boulevard despite earlier concerns that the proposed facility would not meet the needs of the Police Department.
In recent weeks, city officials and their consulting architect, Michael Ross, have been discussing the project with representatives from Jay Paul Company, a San Francisco-based developer who had offered to construct the new police building in exchange for the city's permission to build two four-story office buildings at 395 Page Mill Road, next to AOL's Silicon Valley headquarters.
Under Jay Paul's proposal, the new 44,500-square-foot police building would be attached to a three-story garage that would be shared by the Police Department and the office workers. On April 16, Police Chief Dennis Burns expressed concerns about the proposed building and its ability to accommodate the department's operations. Burns told the City Council's Infrastructure Committee that the preliminary proposal does not appear to be operationally feasible, though he also said that staff will continue to work with Jay Paul to make it so.
Now, city officials are far more optimistic. City Manager James Keene told the Weekly Thursday that after several meetings between senior city staff and Jay Paul officials, the city is now "optimistic about the potential" of the proposed police building.
"The feeling is that the building can work, the size can work and there is enough flexibility with the program itself to make sure that it can accommodate the needs of the Police Department," Keene said.
The police building has been a top infrastructure priority of the city for well over a decade, with numerous citizen committees concurring with staff recommendations that the existing facility in City Hall is too small and seismically deficient. With Jay Paul requesting a "planned community" zone change to accommodate its proposed office development, city officials see the new police headquarter as the main "public benefit" that the developer would have to provide to get the city's permission.
The council's Infrastructure Committee has been discussing over the past month ways to accelerate the schedule for reviewing the Jay Paul proposal because of its implications for the city's plan to place an infrastructure bond measure on the November 2014 ballot. Under the accelerated timeline that the committee received on April 16, the project would go to the City Council for review and possible approval in December. A revised schedule, which staff proposed Thursday, would push the approval date to March 2014.
The new report proposes five criteria that the new police building would have to meet. It would have to have an "emergency operations center" with a capacity for "immediate occupancy" in the event of catastrophe; it would have to be designed in such a way as to maximize efficiency and provide appropriate levels of redundancy to support police functions; it would have to be a "defensible building" that is both attractive and provides "modern day security and threat/hazard vulnerability risk mitigation measures"; its floor area would have to be approximately 44,500 square feet; and it would have to include appropriate egress/ingress setbacks and parking spaces.
Though there were some initial concerns from city officials and architects about whether a building at the proposed site, 3045 Park Boulevard, can meet these criteria, the new report is optimistic.
"All parties agree that the proposed site, while somewhat constrained, is workable, and staff, the applicant, and the architects are working collectively to design a public safety facility that meets operational needs to best serve the City," the report states.
The council's Infrastructure Committee will consider the report and hear from Ross at its May 7 meeting.