News


Jay Paul withdraws plan for office complex, police HQ

Developer cites cities 'political climate,' puts an end to Palo Alto's largest 'planned community' proposal

The Jay Paul Company has withdrawn its proposal to build an office complex at 395 Page Mill Road in Palo Alto and a new police headquarters for the city, a move that effectively kills the largest, most complex and most controversial development in the city's crowded pipeline.

The city announced Thursday that it had received a letter from the San Francisco-based developer, whose two proposed office buildings would have added 311,000 square feet of commercial space to a property that is already built to the limit of the zoning code. In exchange for the city's permission to go beyond the zoning limit, Jay Paul had offered an unprecedented public benefit: a new police station valued at more than $50 million.

Jay Paul's proposal to build the police station prompted great enthusiasm on the City Council, which has long been looking for a way to replace the existing police headquarters at City Hall. In April, the council's Infrastructure Committee agreed to expedite the review process for the Jay Paul application to align this process with the city's timeline for pursuing an infrastructure bond in 2014. Had the deal with Jay Paul gone through, one of the city's most pressing infrastructure needs would have been solved.

But sentiments turned against the proposal in recent months, as the traffic analysis that was scheduled to be completed in the fall was delayed after city staff disputed the consultant's methodology. And on Nov. 5, Palo Alto voters shot down Measure D, effectively killing a much smaller "planned community" project on Maybell Avenue. The vote prompted the City Council to launch on Dec. 2 a protracted community conversation over local development trends, the city's Comprehensive Plan and "planned community" zoning.

The November vote, which Measure D opponents framed as a stance against high-density zoning and planned-community projects, made new PC proposals of Jay Paul's scale a tough sell in the community. Former mayor Dick Rosenbaum was one of several speakers at the Dec. 2 meeting who urged the council to halt the Jay Paul application while the city re-evaluates its development situation. Councilman Larry Klein, a member of the Infrastructure Committee, disagreed and said, "There's no reason why we shouldn't consider the Jay Paul proposal." He acknowledged, however, that approval is not likely.

"I think the odds are, and they've been that way all along, that it's not going to work," Klein said. "I think the people think the council was all set to approve it. I don't think that's ever been the case."

Councilman Pat Burt, who at several meetings had criticized the project for being too massive, concurred with Klein's and said the proposal "is likely to go nowhere."

The project also proved to be a tough sell during two community meetings that Jay Paul held on Nov. 20 and Dec. 4. On both occasions, dozens of residents challenged Jay Paul's assertion that the project would not bring significant traffic to an already congested intersection of Page Mill and El Camino Real.

"There's simply no smarter way to provide this office space," Executive Vice President Ray Paul told a crowd of about 40 people on Nov. 20, referring to its location near public transit. "Every other way is less smart and is likely to cause more impact for the city for the same amount of square footage."

While Ray Paul argued that the traffic impact around the site would be acceptable (lowering the speed by 1 or 2 mph), the draft traffic analysis that the city released Thursday paints a more troubling picture.

The 151-page report lists several intersections where traffic delays would be "significant and unavoidable," including Page Mill Road and Foothill Expressway; and Page Mill and Ash Street. When the project is considered as part of a "cumulative analysis" along with other proposed developments and overall city growth, the list of troubled intersections grows: Oregon Expressway and Middlefield Road, Oregon and Bryant Street, and Alma Street and East Meadow.

The study by the consulting firm Fehr & Peers estimated that the Jay Paul project would generate 3,130 new vehicle trips daily, including 481 in the morning rush hour and 419 in the evening peak hour.

Given concerns over traffic and the public outcry over dense developments, Ray Paul this week sent a letter to Palo Alto's Planning Director Hillary Gitelman saying the project will be withdrawn.

"In view of the current political climate in Palo Alto, we have decided to withdraw our application for a Planned Community Development at 395 Page Mill Road/3045 Park Boulevard," Ray Paul wrote in the Dec. 16 letter. "At some future date, we will evaluate our options for the properties we own in this area.

"We appreciate the effort the City has made while we have been considering this project and look forward to working together in the future."

Jay Paul's decision also means that the city must now consider other revenue sources for a new police building. With recent polls showing that a bond for the project would be a tough sell with the voters (two thirds of whom would need to approve the bond), council members have been considering other ways to raise money for the project, including possible increases in the hotel- or sales-tax rates.

In a statement Thursday, City Manager James Keene emphasized that the city would not have made a decision based solely on the "public benefit" aspect of the Jay Paul proposal. Most council members had stated that their support would depend on the project's traffic analysis.

"We had always said the zoning decision would need to stand on its own," Keene said. "Fortunately, earlier this year the Council Infrastructure Committee began to explore other options to fund a public-safety building."

View an excerpt from the traffic study that grades the traffic at key Palo Alto intersections.

Comments

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Thank goodness. However, read closely:
"In view of the current political climate in Palo Alto, we have decided to withdraw our application for a Planned Community Development at 395 Page Mill Road/3045 Park Boulevard," Paul wrote. "At some future date, we will evaluate our options for the properties we own in this area."
It sounds like they're likely to reintroduce the proposal when things cool down.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

The Jay Paul Company understands the Palo Alto electorate better than the Palo Alto City Council understands the Palo Alto electorate.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Got to wonder who ended up paying for the Planning Department, and Police Department, Staff time that went into getting the project to this point?

It would be a real shame if the taxpayers ended up footing the bill!


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Way to go J Paul! Thank you for respecting the wishes of the people of our community. Now, if only the city council could do the same.....


Posted by Not such a jerk after all, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Hooray for Jay Paul, and than you for having the honor and integrity to quit while ahead.

I wish our City Council had half that much integrity....they could use a big infusion of it


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Dec 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I like having the police department downtown! If it were further away, then I fear the downtown police presence would drop. Please stay between Hamilton and Forest.


Posted by what else, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm

"When the project is considered as part of a "cumulative analysis" along with other proposed developments and overall city growth, the list of troubled intersections grows: "

Could the Weekly provide the list?

Knowing the City, this just gives them more time to approve other projects totallig 3 Jay Paul's?


Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Good News.
" No Smarter way to provide this office space"
Who says WE want it?


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Good move by Jay Paul. Now our local developers need to follow this example
and respect the desire of the residents to preserve what is left of our
City and not try to "max out" every site while using every possible loophole
and bonus and parking exemption in the code Then the Measure D vote
will have proved to be a true turning point. So developers, step up
and do the right thing.


Posted by Eric Idle, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 10:03 pm

And there was much rejoicing!


Posted by One of far too many, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 19, 2013 at 10:07 pm

"The vote prompted the City Council to launch on Dec. 2 a protracted community conversation over local development trends, the city's Comprehensive Plan and "planned community" zoning."

Is it really a conversation if one side isn't really listening and isn't going to change no matter what is said anyway?


@Mike,
Instead of one station, I wonder if we should consider smaller distributed stations for faster response time and greater chance of available responders in a disaster on any side of town. But I'm glad we're not making our planning decisions this way, having seen the way this Council can justify anything in order to chase "free" money...


Posted by Winnie Almonica, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 20, 2013 at 6:12 am

As usual, another dumb decided by Palo Alto. Rather than bring prosperity, jobs and progress to the city the residents pushed Jay Paul to stop investing here. When you're out of jobs and on the streets begging for a handout, maybe then you'll appreciate the economic development and new jobs someone offered to bring to your doorstep!


Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2013 at 8:12 am

"Whoa! I feel good, "

- James Brown
Sing it loud, friends.


Posted by Big Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 8:43 am

"I think the odds are, and they've been that way all along, that it's not going to work," Klein said. "I think the people think the council was all set to approve it. I don't think that's ever been the case."

This is the problem with our City Council. They have no grasp of reality, that people don't buy the long string of justifications coming out of their mouths. There are too many of us who witnessed what happened at Maybell, while the Mayor was saying "The fix is not in."

@ Winnie,
In case you hadn't noticed, Palo Alto is creating so many jobs, there is a huge jobs/housing imbalance and we're being forced to build so much housing, it's overwhelming our infrastructure. Attempting to keep Palo Alto a liveable, safe place with a good quality of life will ultimately do the most to keep it prosperous -- creating too much urban blight is known to cause a cascade of problems, which is the real threat to the vision you spin.

Also, in case you hadn't noticed, Jay Paul decided, not "Palo Alto", but I give him credit for being smart enough. I hope developers understand that every underparked overdeveloped building that gets through makes it that much more difficult for anyone else. Alma Plaza was the last straw (yet still this City Council piles it on).


Posted by Grateful, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2013 at 9:56 am

The BEST X-MAS gift Palo Alto could ask for!!!!! Thank you JP!!!!


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2013 at 10:32 am


I read the 'Draft Transportation Impact Analysis' and boy was that eye popping. It is a 151 page document, but certainly worth taking the time to read.

Link to Draft Transportation Impact Analysis:
Web Link

P.S. There are plenty of Mountain View residents who stand in solicitude with the residents of Palo Alto regarding the apparent non-stop, up-zoned and under-parked developments and proposed developments.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2013 at 11:27 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

Purely a business decision. Even if this project would eventually be approved, it was going to drag on for months and possibly years more. It ties up time and resources which could be used on other projects. After the next election would be the time to revisit it.


Posted by Go Away, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Well Said, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

@Go Away: I agree wholeheartedly, but add developers and the ARB to that.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Jay Paul withdrew this absurd project when it became apparent that there
was push back from the residents to the rampant out-of-control development in the City. In effect Jay Paul tested the water with this proposal. As crazy as it was, it seemed possible. Even after Measure D the Council still left the proposal on the table because it is so used to business as usual, it is so entrenched in its pro-development bias and it didn't want to send the wrong message to the development community.

The impacts of projects already approved and those under construction
have yet to be felt however.Just this week 611 Cowper has begun, a four-story 34,700 sf mixed use project 53 spaces under parked with access off
10 foot wide Lane 39, which is also the access for recently completed 524 Hamilton under parked with 7300 sf of office space. Across the street is under parked 537 Hamilton under construction with 14,700 sf of office space.







Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm

What, no comment from Liz?


Posted by maguro_01, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm

@Big Picture -

"...creating too much urban blight..."

Certainly there are misbegotten projects. It seemed odd to have a large, dense, residential project in an auto-oriented residential area where traffic is being deliberately throttled for example. That project would have been doomed anyway because it would not have increased home prices around it. That's about the biggest mistake a suburban government can make. Most Palo Alto house owners cannot afford to buy the houses they now live in nor likely will their well-below-the-replacement-rate kids. For most that house price is most of their net worth.

Here in Mountain View there is a 3 1/2 story mostly office building going up a block away from where I live with maybe 4 parking spaces in a tiny lot. Three blocks away is a rather larger building going up with what appears to be a two story underground garage. It can be done. Residential rents have gone up so much near the transit center that it may be cheaper now to have a car and drive to commute. The supply of housing is severely restricted and "entry level" is four guys in a one bedroom apartment sleeping on mattresses on the floor for six months.

The neighborhoods have an ideal situation - more and more commercial, tax paying development near freeways and soaring housing prices. This has been the dynamic ever since I've been in the area (1982) and it's not about to change until the inevitable changes in voter demographics. Continuing that dynamic is what suburban governments exist to do.

But "urban blight"? Should we ask who is urban blight?


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Adrian, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Realllly excited that another development project in Palo Alto has been killed! I love driving (or biking) by stalled, closed, or vacant properties. Cannot wait until the AOL buildings are vacant and fenced in like JJ&F. Go Palo Alto Process!


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm

You could start a whole thread on urban blight or what some planners are calling suburban blight.

People fled LoDo to places like Highland Ranch. Today people are going the other way, blight has taken hold in some of those suburbs.

Daly City is a pre war city made famous by post war housing song. Again people fled to the burbs, the whole Santa Clara Valley was built to housing workers either from San Francisco or the East Bay industrial centers.

The term "No new San Jose's" became a battle cry to prevent such large car centered places being built in the Bay Area.


Posted by Julian, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Sound of world's smallest violin.


Posted by bick, a resident of University South
on Dec 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm

With or without this project, we desperately need a new state-of-the-art safety building. Downtown doesn't have the space. Park boulevard is centrally located with "easy" access. Only now, a free $50 mil public benefit is gone because it means a little more traffic.

Guess what, even without this project growth is not going to stop and more traffic is inevitable. IMHO, with the California ave streetscape project, the entire area could easily be very pedestrian centric with lots of foot traffic rather than cars. Opportunity lost.


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2013 at 8:10 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Did I read the traffic study incorrectly?
The Bicycle numbers were from August... When school is out.
Hmm..and no parents driving to schools.

Park is a terrible place for a public safety building:
1)Railroad Tracks prevent quick access to the north side of the town. The Oregon ramp is always choked and usually requires a full stop. Heaven forbid we have a Rail Accident nearby. Grid lock
2)Street blocked (Park) to the East
3)Narrow, over parked streets to the West to get to ECR
The only fairly open path is to California Ave.
Public Safety need great access to all directions.

Why not move City Hall there instead. We all know the type of access citizens get. At least we can make it 2-way :)


Posted by Elaine, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Whoo hoo!


Posted by Big Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2013 at 6:20 pm

@Grateful,
"The BEST X-MAS gift Palo Alto could ask for!!!!! Thank you JP!!!!"

JP? Thank the Maybell neighbors! Thank the rest of Palo Alto residents for understanding what was at issue!


Posted by Big Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm

"Only now, a free $50 mil public benefit is gone because it means a little more traffic. Guess what, even without this project growth is not going to stop and more traffic is inevitable."

A little more blood pressure sometimes just means a little more blood pressure, and sometimes a little more means a stroke and death. it depends on what is already there.

The City should plan for and pay for its own safety building, so it can control what it gets and plan to its needs, not to the gift/grant. We have the money to pay for it, we have spent that money many times over, we just don't prioritize safety in this town. Tell the CC to stop spending on frivolities like golf courses and put safety first.

The Stanford funds were $40million, enough to pay or mostly pay for the safety building. Add to that the cost of the golf course and gym (why are we building a municipal gym?!!), and there you have it, we could have worked for private partnerships to fund the golf course. If we needed the safety building so badly, why did City Council spend so much time talking about things like another bike bridge over 101 for the Stanford funds?

The fuzz scared away the high-rolling john, I for one am glad they won't at least be prostituting themselves for that one. We don't need it.


Posted by Dick Rosenbaum, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm

One down; one to go.


Posted by priorities, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2013 at 8:25 pm


Big picture,

"why are we building a municipal gym?!!)"

This would be a nice priority actually IF we had nothing else to do but continue to reinforce the relatively healthy habits of the community, kids walk and bike to school 70%, that's an astounding number. THe high schools have outstanding private and public resources for athletics, and the adults are no slouches.

BUT, Palo alto has to worry about ABAG, how to handle the traffic and construction, and how to make room for Keene's vision of PA being the heart of silicon valley for the world to plug into. We are too busy looking out for the heart attack in the making, they gym would be ironic.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

The wave of office projects recently completed, now under construction, recently approved, or being submitted,are completely transforming the
Downtown in terms of scale, ambiance, character while materially adding
to parking shortfalls and traffic congestion.

From a design standpoint, a well designed building like 100 Hamilton, the Palantir building, is succeeded by a Lytton Gateway. A 428 University, the
Accel Partners building, attractive in terms of color and texture and scale, is succeeded by a steel and glass oversized 278 University at Bryant or a 317 University at the old Medallion Gallery. And an interesting and
attractive 325 Lytton is succeeded by the oversized jumble of the botched
Gatehouse project at Lytton and Bryant.

The City has failed to manage market pressures through planning and zoning and design review, while giving developers bonuses, exemptions, credits, exceptions to create larger buildings with less on site parking. And the developers jump at the opportunity. Some of these projects are not even in the Downtown parking assessment district so it's a "free ride"

And now the social impacts of this path the City is on are spreading as long-time businesses like the House of Bagels are displaced and Shady Lane is similarly threathened. The situation in Palo Alto is spinning out of control.



Posted by Big Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2013 at 3:49 am

@priorities,
"This would be a nice priority actually IF we had nothing else to do but continue to reinforce the relatively healthy habits of the community, kids walk and bike to school 70%, that's an astounding number. "

When I complained that the City wasn't creating enough open space and playing fields near where kids could walk and bike to them, instead of at the Baylands where let's face it, kids will be driven, Curtis Williams said the reason for the soccer fields out at Baylands was for adult leagues, to take pressure off the fields on this side of the freeway. Of course, that was just the justification of the day, but if there's any truth to it, the gym over there isn't being built for the kids, either.

If we have such an urgent need for a safety building, we don't have money for such boondoggles!


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I don't think people fully realize what the end-game will look like here in Palo Alto when you subvert the planning,zoning and design review functions to developers whose value system is defined by $$$ and whose limited perspective is to max out every site in a strong market. Anybody question what the outcome will be?


Posted by My sympthies, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Sad day for the ARB and Planning Commission.
They won't get to approve yet another oversized, underparked, inappropriate building.
And a new developer they won't get to enrich.Sad day.


Posted by maguro_01, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 23, 2013 at 4:12 pm

What were the reasons, again, why BART wasn't built up this side of the Bay? They are probably the same reasons the Caltrain line never will be electrified. trenched, elevated, or whatever.

Blame NIMBY homeowners on the Peninsula. For decades they have had a Real Deal. They collect taxes from commercial development near Freeways, keep their own low, severely restrict housing development, and watch their house prices soar.

They don't want to live in cities they say. They just want to sell their houses for a few million dollars. Not a bad deal, right? Why would anyone expect them to give up on it?

One thing that might make sense would be to dump the HSR up the Peninsula to SF and end it in SJ or Santa Clara. If it's built at all. Then recenter Silicon Valley and development there. Development would be rationalized and some homeowners on the Peninsula would still make money. Rationalization and governance of development is obviously necessary given California's history of "development" that left communities bagholders.



Posted by Big Picture, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2013 at 7:01 pm

maguro_01,
I am not really sure what you are saying in regards to Palo Alto. The people with the low taxes are the people who have lived here a long time. New families who want to send their kids to the local schools are keeping the property values high -- and paying through the nose in taxes -- and if Palo Alto becomes so unpleasant they decide to live somewhere nicer and send their kids to private schools, for example, there goes our high tax base that supports those great schools. City Council can kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Most people have been willing to sacrifice to live in Palo Alto because of the higher quality of life and schools, despite often cramped quarters in which to raise their families. If overdevelopment too negatively alters the character of Palo Alto, it's a one-way street, a slippery slope. Go spend some time in San Jose if you like ugly, boxy, soulless buildings, and want to understand how they affect they community. We can choose to reject that fate. Citizens who don't want that will have to actively reject that fate, since City Council is taking us there in the proverbial handbasket...


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