Page Mill Road development hits another snag | October 7, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 7, 2011

Page Mill Road development hits another snag

Research, condo project remains in limbo after Palo Alto council requests application revisions

by Gennady Sheyner

Harold Hohbach's tortuous journey to build a development filled with condominiums and research space on Page Mill Road just took another unpredictable swerve.

This story contains 826 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by T Tierney, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hohbach continues to be a nut, trying to amend the zoning we put into place to keep PA a comfortable residential community. He could have had this building in place years ago if he had wanted to abide by the laws. I wonder how he would feel if someone wanted to erect a similar building near his Atherton home?

Posted by clean it up, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2011 at 9:10 am

HP needs to clean up their toxic waste spill regardless of how that property is used. Why is it taking so long? Is stalling that much cheaper?

Posted by Supporter bias, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2011 at 9:48 am

The restaurant owner who spoke in favor of the monster building comes from restaurant Riace which is Hohbach's property. He "neglected" to mention that.
This story should be in the Palo Alto Issues category.

Posted by JO, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

That "dirt" used to house multiple small businesses, consistent with the GM zoning (Akins body shop was one of them), then Hohbach evicted them and bulldozed the property to the dirt lot that it now is. He did that before Bob Moss and Tom Jordan's lawsuit was decided (against his project).

I guess the "black hole" argument has worked for other developers in the past, so the tactic is still being used: create a black hole, and then get people to complain that anything is better than the black hole. Past City Councils have reinforced this "black hole" strategy by their approvals of projects employing this tactic. The present City Council may not be as gullible as past Councils.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2011 at 11:11 am

NO to this Hohbach who seems to be capitalizing on his age, as if this is a concern. . .Palo Alto needs to put a halt on any more massive construction.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2011 at 11:13 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

If Moss's argument is valid, then vacate every building on the plume and make California Avenue another Love Canal. If not, then dismiss it and get on with the project. Incidentally, a good share of Palo Alto shared in the profit from that "toxic" plume, and the toxicity at low concentration is questionable.

Posted by MLT, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

Interesting how a large portion of the residents is trying to fight mixed development. In our green-obsessed community it seems that only few understand that living close to work is the best solution to reducing car use. Mixed development will allow creation of work spaces (and jobs) close to where people live. Regardless of the details of this project, I am sure that we will see more mixed development attempts that will become a norm in near future.

Posted by no exceptions please, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2011 at 11:30 am

Re: the Riacce shill: as far as I understand the buliding housing Riace was the "public benefit" Hohbach offered the city to allow PC density above the actual zoning, and for which he now collects rent, with the result of zero public benefit. Any contrary info available?
And of course Riace-guy wants "jobs" across the street, since they are lunch-eaters. Anybody hear of our jobs-housing imbalance, and no, the workers in the jobs are not likely to live in the condos, and there will be more jobs than condos anyway. Has anybody ever offered any datafor how may residents of mixed use developments in Palo Alto commute to work w/o a motor vehicle, and how many don't own a vehicle? Our existing regional zoning can't switch to Manhattan (try tearing down all single family homes to add 3-7 more units per lot maybe), but we can over-densify into its traffic gridlock.

Posted by Frank, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Akins body shop is still there. The original building were eye sores, run down and not particularly fit for the kind of businesses we have here today. They were all warehouses built to facilitate freight on the Southern Pacific. I know the big one was originally an onion processing plant - we haven't had that kind of agriculture here for a while now and it's not likely to come back.

I find it idiotic to insist the the out side be more open and inviting. Inviting to whom? One side it Caltrain, the other is Park Ave with a huge office building (which is not particularly open or inviting itself) On the ends are Akins body shop and another open lot.

The toxic plume argument is Mr. Moss grasping at anything to stop this project - it can be easily mitigated.

Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Well, at least the City Council didn't vote to reject it. If he uses the Pedestrian and Transit Oriented District (PTOD) designation, which can only apply to projects near transportation hubs, it will be a win-win, because of the "green" aspects of Mixed Use (Residential over retail, or in this case research & development. There is a complex in Mountain View called Two Worlds which is Redidential-over-Retail. It's right on the El Camino but upstairs in the residences, once can barely hear the traffic.

I wish him luck, although the opponents are running out of excuses to stop it, he may be running out of time due to his age.

Posted by JO, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I believe that Akins body shop moved to the property next door after Hohbach kicked them out and bulldozed.

If Hohbach had chosen to develop the project under the PTOD overlay in the first place, he could have had the project built by now. But he kept pushing for more: more floor space, more "R&D" (twice as much as PTOD will allow), less on-site parking. He's got no one to blame but himself if he doesn't get to see the project completed.

He has certainly provided income for his attorneys and development team by being so stubborn about it. Maybe he can take some comfort in that.

Posted by Supporter bias, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Re: the Riacce shill: as far as I understand the buliding housing Riace was the "public benefit" Hohbach offered the city to allow PC density above the actual zoning, and for which he now collects rent...
The entry area of Riace was supposed to be open to the public That was part of the public benefit and he has enclosed it so the public won't use it, and uses it for the restaurant. (Doug Ross pulled a similar ploy on the corner of Homer and High: promise a public area then enclose it for the restaurant's use.)
The new monster had ONE parking spot for each condo.What a self-serving self-centered greedy man. He has learned nothing from his years of working on this project. Yes, that's another developer ploy, to say, oh, its been so many years, I've worked so hard.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm

The proposed design looks much like the JCC - a monster wall on 3 sides facing the streets. This would look similar. No one I've talked to likes this, and painting the walls to make them look like set backs is a spurious solution.

One parking space per unit is much too low. Almost every family has more than one car. I listened to Hohbach's arguments that it was sufficient because people would use the spaces vacated by people who have gone to work. So much for a transient oriented location when he is saying the spaces would be available because people would drive to work. And what about night time and weekend parking when most people are home?

The whole project is designed to maximize profit and disregard the Comprehensive Plan for adequate parking and a friendly appearance from the street.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2011 at 4:56 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Maximize profit!!! Horrors!
And why isn't Riacce a public benefit? I kinda like Riacce's.

Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Perhaps he should move on the greener pastures where a mixed-use R & D project will be welcomed by the City of Fremont. Land available right next to Tesla Motors Plant.
Web Link

Posted by jan, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm

On a related topic -- how is it that the retirement community (Sunrise Assisted Living) was built on this toxic site? What about the retirement community's water & air quality? Does anyone know who can answer these questions? Thanks very much for any insight.

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