News

Sign exceptions approved for 'Lytton Gateway'

Prominent building near downtown Caltrain station the latest Palo Alto development to win approval for signs

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.

Comments

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

The ARB approved? They must be REALLY awful.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

The sign is its own public benefit.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Rules are only for those who do not pals with the city council or who do not make campaign donations. Goes along with not following the rules for number of parking spaces the building should have.


Posted by PA, a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Awkward, very awkward.


Posted by Monkey see, monkey do, a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Greed is a communicable disease.The only solution is to put them in isolation. And get law breakers off our commissions.
Wonder what the payoffs are.


Posted by Mike Alexander, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 2, 2014 at 6:27 am

Mike Alexander is a registered user.

And so the town leadership steps onto the slippery slope again. This one leads to where we were when the sign ordinance was adopted in the first place. These actions set a new limit, and the next guy will want a little bit more, etc. ARB should be looking at a slightly bigger picture.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

The building itself of course is the "disbenefit". Whether this excessive
signage looks particularly tacky, ugly, and just draws more attention to this oversized,disconnected,out of place building, remains to be seen, but that is the likely outcome. This is no surprise- the City is all in, the ARB, the staff, the local developers, the insiders- just go for it. The City crossed the line a long time ago. Check out the major excavation underway at Cowper/Hamilton, another Crescent Park Gateway project.

As a sidelight, the one through lane going north on Alma at Lytton, due to a left turn only lane rarely used,is backing up traffic severely on Alma.


Posted by Corruptimundo, a resident of Green Acres
on May 2, 2014 at 8:54 am

Evil is as evil does.


Posted by Cc, a resident of Downtown North
on May 2, 2014 at 9:10 am

What is the point of an ordinance when it is not followed? . We followed the ordinance with our downtown businesses. But now I see that the ordinance is just a suggestion. We'll keep that in mind when we blow up out signs to be twice the size, with neon, blinking and under the awnings, and tripping menus on the sidewalks to boot. That way we know that the people from the train tracks can see us!

ps, Everyone: go witness for yourself the pitiful job the city does at enforcing the ordinance on University Ave


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

Palo Alto is and has been sold to the highest bidder. There must be an insider fraternity/sorority that is making the decisions, making a mockery of past and present city building regulations, and in truth pulling down the city to their lower $tandard$. And the residents are powerless to stop it - or are they?


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

Palo Alto is and has been sold to the highest bidder. There must be an insider fraternity/sorority that is making the decisions, making a mockery of past and present city building regulations, and in truth pulling down the city to their lower $tandard$. And the residents are powerless to stop it - or are they?


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

Palo Alto is and has been sold to the highest bidder. There must be an insider fraternity/sorority that is making the decisions, making a mockery of past and present city building regulations, and in truth pulling down the city to their lower $tandard$. And the residents are powerless to stop it - or are they?


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

Palo Alto is and has been sold to the highest bidder. There must be an insider fraternity/sorority that is making the decisions, making a mockery of past and present city building regulations, and in truth pulling down the city to their lower $tandard$. And the residents are powerless to stop it - or are they?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Because that building isnt already in your face enough. That seems to be the rule - in-your-face building needs a sign that befits it.

Kate, residents are not powerless to stop this. There are these two things, referendum and initiatve. Referendum to stop city ordinances and initiatives to make our own. Why don't we residents who already know how to do this form a group to make it easier for residents to put forward referenda and initiatives? It's probably not worth thwarting one sign, but probably is wrth putting a stop to the excessive development.

Many hands make light work.


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