The Palo Alto City Council will consider the appeal tonight of an approved modernist building that appellant Doug Smith, a downtown resident, says doesn't fit the traditional character of the area.
Smith wrote in a letter to the council that the planned four-story retail/office/residential building at 240 Hamilton Ave., which earned the approval of the city's Architectural Review Board in July, is inconsistent with the city's municipal code and its Comprehensive Plan, the "land-use bible" that guides development in the city.
The municipal code states the board should only approve a development if it is compatible with the immediate environment and -- if the area is considered to have a unifying design or historical character -- the design is compatible with that character.
The area surrounding 240 Hamilton has "more than a dozen structures that exemplify harmonious style and are officially recognized as deserving preservation and compatibility," Smith wrote. He called it "the most densely historic spot in any commercial area in Palo Alto."
The proposed building's austere Modernist design, on the other hand, would clash, Smith wrote. He faulted city staff and the Architectural Review Board for approving the development, and buildings like it.
In his letter, Smith also accuses members of the Architectural Review Board for serving their own individual interests as private architects rather than the public's interests. In the small world of local architects, it can be difficult to get big contracts, and Smith thinks board members are unlikely to vote against any project developed by someone they may do business with, fearing the decision will cost them future business.
The four-story, 15,000 square foot, mixed-use building would replace the existing 7,000-square-foot building. It would have retail space on the ground floor, offices on the second and third floors and residential space on the fourth floor.
Smith also expressed concerned about the development's effect on parking in the area, saying it would add about 50 cars to an area that already has parking problems.