The Lytton Gateway building that will soon open at the intersection of Alma Street and Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto became on Thursday the latest in a wave of projects to receive permission from the city to exceed sign regulations.
The building, which will be occupied Survey Monkey, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and Blue Bottle Coffee, will feature a total of 12 signs, four of which violate existing regulations. On Thursday morning, the signage received the unanimous blessing of the city's Architectural Review Board.
In receiving approval, 101 Lytton Ave. joins other local developments such as the Grocery Outlet, Tesla Motors and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, all of which recently received approval for signs that exceed regulations. In the case of Lytton Gateway, a four-story building next to the downtown Caltrain station, the exceptions were required because the proposed signs were in some cases too large and, on other cases, to be located above awnings (city regulations require signs to be below the building's awnings).
The 12 signs include the main Survey Monkey logo, which will be featured on the building's elevation tower facing Alma Street and illuminated with internal LED lights. Three other Survey Monkey signs will be featured on the Lytton Avenue side of the tower, above the main entry door and above an awning.
The building will also include three retail signs for "future tenants have not yet been identified," according to a report from the city's planning staff; two Blue Bottle signs; and one directing people to the parking area.
The signage easily cleared its procedural hurdles, winning support from both planning staff and from the Architectural Review Board. City planners determined that the proposed signs "are intended to be distinctive, finely crafted signs oriented to pedestrians.
"The signage is appropriate for the location and balances visibility needs with aesthetic need," Chief Planning Official Amy French wrote in a report to the board.
The architecture board agreed and after a brief discussion and a few minor stipulations voted 5-0 to support the proposed signs. Chair Lee Lippert requested that the applicant, Lytton Gateway LLC, return with more details and alternatives relating to the LED-lit sign, the Chamber of Commerce sign and the parking sign. These details will be reviewed by a subcommittee at a later date.
Though he generally supported the plan, board member Randy Popp said some of the Survey Monkey signs seem "overly large" and are "completely wedged into the available space."
"Aesthetically, I think they are detracting from the building in the way they are placed," Popp said.
Otherwise, the board felt the signs make visual sense. Board member Alexander Lew said that while having signs under awnings typically makes it easier for pedestrians to see them, this building is an exception because it is next to the railroad tracks and at the very edge of University Avenue. Thus, the signs are oriented more towards drivers, he said.
Lippert also encouraged the applicant to create stronger signs for Blue Bottle. It's important, he said, for the passersby to know that the coffee shop is here for the public and is not Survey Monkey's "private commissary."
Similarly, Lippert stressed the need to better integrate the Chamber sign with the rest of the signs in the program.
"My feeling is that Chamber of Commerce is so integral and important to vitality of the community, that it's important that we see that sign in the context of the rest of the building," Lippert said.