Everyone agrees that the latest downtown development to win approval from Palo Alto's architectural board will bring an eye-catching touch of modernity to a eclectic block on downtown's periphery.
For some nearby residents, however, that is not a good thing.
On Thursday, just before the Architectural Board voted 4-1 to approve the design of a four-story building at 636 Waverley, several nearby residents complained that the new building developed by David Kleiman and designed by Ken Hayes would be incompatible with other buildings in the area.
Board members disagreed, with only Alexander Lew dissenting.
Among the critics was Doug Scafe, who spoke on behalf of the Waverley Plaza Homeowners Association board of directors, which represents 17 homeowners near the site of the new development. The new building, Scafe argued, would be too tall, too massive and have inadequate setback and landscaping.
"I marvel at how the ARB can believe the proposed building is compatible with the neighborhood," Scafe said.
Janice Berman shared his concern. It's not the building's modernist style that bugs her, Berman said, it's the size, which Berman said will overshadow the other buildings. She also urged the board to demand larger setbacks and more landscaping in the new development.
"We have greenery and a few chunks of the sky," Berman said. "That's what we have and that's what we think as human beings we are entitled to enjoy and to continue to protect."
The board, however, generally agreed that after three public hearings and repeated modifications, it's time to move the project ahead. While Lew criticized the development's landscaping plan, others praised its design, which has evolved over the past two months. The most recent changes include the pulling back of a roof overhang, which aims to reduce the mass, and an addition of a planting strip within the public sidewalk. The development will also provide 21 parking spaces in an underground garage, which will use five four-car lifts.
The building will include 4,800 square feet of office space on the bottom two stories and a residential unit on each of the top two stores, one with two bedrooms and the other with three. Each unit would have large open terraces.
At the Thursday hearing, board Vice Chair Lee Lippert praised the architect for listening to the board's prior feedback and doing "exactly what I've requested." Board member Randy Popp agreed and lauded Kleiman for his willingness to offer the parking lifts, at a considerable expense.
"We have a tremendous parking challenge in Palo Alto," Popp said. "And the applicant is willing to come up with the most costly solution, which is something we need to encourage."
He also called the proposed building a "handsome and exciting project."
"It really enhances the varied character of this block and is reflective of Palo Alto and the progress and technology and design that is so much a part of this community."