California Ave. Concept Plan approval won't come until 2014

Commission recommends changing language, expanding plan's map boundaries and encouraging smaller housing units

Approval of the long-awaited of the California Avenue Concept Plan will be put off until next year, after planning commissioners added a slew of new amendments for subcommittee review at a meeting Wednesday night.

The plan, which has been in the works for years, is meant to provide a framework for the future development of three major sub-areas of the California Avenue area: California Avenue, Park Boulevard and the Fry's Electronics site.

Some commissioners expressed hopes of passing the plan on to City Council for approval at Wednesday's meeting, but further suggestions for amendments pushed it back to the commission's next meeting on Jan. 29.

The concept plan is now running parallel – and many residents say, in conflict with – developer Jay Paul Co.'s proposal to build a massive, high-density office campus on Page Mill Road. In exchange for a higher density project, Jay Paul has offered to fulfill one of the California Avenue Concept Plan elements and build a public safety building at 3045 Park Blvd.

"Essentially, it reminds me of a saying: 'Beware what you ask for, you just might get it.'" said Vice Chair Arthur Keller, indicating that the public safety building was included without commissioners finding consensus on where or what the building should be.

Commissioners unanimously voted on Wednesday night to recommend staff change language that designates constructing the public safety building on Park Boulevard specifically.

"It seems overly restrictive," Commissioner Carl King said, suggesting the language instead read "within the district."

Commissioner Greg Tanaka also put forward an amendment to redraw the Fry's sub-area map to extend all the way to El Camino Real. As it is now, the map does not include a block of commercial area on El Camino Real and Portage Avenue, including the site of Foot Locker at 3225 El Camino Real.

"I think that if any retail business that has a chance of surviving in this area, it will need that El Camino frontage," Tanaka said.

The commission unanimously passed his amendment.

Keller also suggested that the concept plan encourage developing smaller housing units in the area. The plan is founded on the idea of the California Avenue area as a transit-rich corridor that can be developed to attract small new companies and thus, single or smaller families. All the commissioners voted in favor of Keller's amendment except for Commissioner Michael Alcheck.

The commission also discussed the overall vision of the plan, asking for more clarity, "density done right" and that specific data (traffic patterns or the area's carrying capacity for development, for example) be incorporated into the plan.

Wednesday night's input will be reviewed in subcommittee with staff, who will return to the commission with a revised draft of the concept plan in January.

"I actually think that although this took awhile, the process of us voting on each and every proposed change was actually a very good one and allowed us to achieve clarity," Keller said.


Posted by Commissioner background, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2013 at 10:55 am

Mr. Alcheck remains true to his profession. He consistently wants bigger and more profitable development.
Alcheck is a real-estate attorney who works as general counsel for the Loyola Management Company.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:36 pm

"transit rich corridor" "density done right"

Unless there is legislation to prohibit you from having a car, or from commuting in any other direction but SF or SJ (on Caltrain), this will be a bunch of buildings with few roads and cars piled on top of each other.

The expectation that people will work, live and shop in the same area is silly. People who work do not shop (maybe they'll buy food), people who take Caltrain don't shop or buy food, and people who shop have better places to do it than an outpost by Caltrain and office buildings.

If I were to plan "retail" I would do it on the other side of El Camino, boutique type shops, not a cheesy mall, and have a parking garage on that side. At least all the cars will be going in another direction.

Posted by resident too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 9:03 am

"The expectation that people will work, live and shop in the same area is silly"

Absolutely true. El Camino is completely jammed at rush hour and more dense housing will just make it worse. So much for your "transit rich corridor". I don't know what dense housing "done right" means. At some point the density exceeds the capacity of the transit infrastructure.

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