After an outpouring of criticism from neighbors and significant design revisions, a Louis Road property owner this week received the green light from the city to build a two-story home on a block dominated by Eichler-style houses.
According to a July 23 notice from Amy French, the city's chief planning official, the approval becomes effective 14 calendar days after its issuance unless the city receives a written request for a director's hearing before the end of the 14-day period. Only an applicant or the owner or tenant of an adjacent property may request such a hearing, according to French.
Located at 3558 Louis Road in the Palo Verde neighborhood, the new house will still be taller than most of the Eichler-style buildings on the block, though the upper story will now be set further back to make the building more compatible with the one-story homes that dominate the block. It will have less massing, stronger horizontal lines and more muted colors changes aimed at making the new home more compatible with its neighbors.
The second story in the new design is set back from the lower floor by 19 feet in the front, severely reducing the visual impact, Palo Alto's planning staff has determined. The roofs, once gabled, are now mostly flat, with extended eaves on the corners that emphasize the "horizontal line" and "keep mass and scale down relative to adjacent homes," according to the city's notice of findings.
"This is effective in visually regulating scale and is a constructive height/massing transition element to the flat rooflines of the adjacent homes," the city's approval letter states.
The 3,294-square-foot Prairie Style home will, like the existing house, include an attached garage. At its highest point, the garage will reach 25 feet and 8 inches. Though the overall density remains unchanged from the original version, the applicant has reduced the area of the upper floor and reconfigured the upper-floor layout, according to city staff.
The changes were sparked by criticism about size and style in May from neighbors, including members of the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club, which is across the street from the proposed project. In a protest letter, club members wrote that the proposed structure "is not in keeping with the midcentury modern aesthetic that Eichler homes and the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club represent." The letter stated that club members have "a stake in ensuring that the club does not become a curious anachronism in its own neighborhood."
In its letter of approval, planning staff said it received 49 comments objecting to the original design. Most of these "mainly related to the size/height, second floor, and style of the structure not fitting to the almost purely Eichler neighborhood." Some remained unconvinced even after the design changes, though opinions now appear to be split. After the changes were made, city planners received letters from 12 residents who oppose the design and 10 who now support it.
"Most of those continuing to oppose the design expressed concerns about the home's size and use of a second story in a one-story context and some opposed the shift away from pure Eichler neighborhood character presented by the proposed design," the city's letter stated.