Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 5, 2012

Around Town

SKY'S THE LIMIT ... How high is too high? That is the central question these days for Palo Alto officials awash in building proposals. Normally, the city's 50-foot height limit a long-standing sacred cow of local zoning regulations offers a simple answer to this question. But with developers looking to place four giant office towers at 27 University Ave. and two huge office buildings on Page Mill Road, these aren't normal times. Faced with these proposals, a hot real estate market and heavy demand for affordable housing, city officials are now considering ways to loosen the height limit and encourage more growth. The Architectural Review Board tackled this subject Thursday morning, with several members expressing support for allowing exceptions to the 50-foot height limit or, as one member suggested, scrapping it entirely. Most board members were open to taller buildings, particularly in downtown and along El Camino Real. "I'm really in favor of us trying to find a different way to manage this and to create opportunities for different heights, where mass and scale can be balanced appropriately in recognition of neighborhood concerns," said board member Randy Popp, who works downtown. But any solution, he said, should carefully consider the parking impacts of the taller buildings. Board member Alex Lew said there are plenty of examples of seven-to-10-story buildings in neighboring communities and advocated surveying other areas for examples that work well in downtown locations. Board member Clare Malone Prichard was particularly enthusiastic about changing the height regulations. "I'm of a mind to not have a height limit anymore," she said, noting that the city's density regulations already limit building sizes. But she acknowledged that making the change would be a tall task. "There's a big fear in this town of tall buildings so that's not going to fly," she said.

SEX, DRUGS AND COLLEGE ADMISSION ... These are the three subjects parents will travel through rain, snow, sleet and the dead of night to talk about, author Christine VanDeVelde joked to a packed audience of parents and students at Palo Alto High School Monday night. VanDeVelde is co-author with former Stanford admissions dean Robin Mamlet of the 2011 book "College Admissions: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step." What colleges crave more than grades, test scores or anything else is authenticity in an applicant, said VanDeVelde, whose book is based on interviews with more than 50 admissions deans. "The perfect candidate may be somebody who's imperfect but authentic," she said. To parents, she advised going on the "college diet." "Stop talking nervously over dinner about college the subject should not be on the menu more than twice a week."

PICK ME! PICK ME! ... Anyone concerned about declining civic engagement in Palo Alto would find plenty of reasons to smile at this week's meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission. The commission may not be as wonky as the Planning and Transportation Commission or as detail-oriented as the Architectural Review Board, but for sheer gung-ho and enthusiasm, this seven-member group is tough to beat. This quality was on display Tuesday night when the commission was charged with appointing a three-member subcommittee to help staff put together the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, a colossal effort that is still in the embryo phase. Rob de Geus, a manager in the Parks and Recreation Department, called the forthcoming plan a "game changer for the department and the city." In this case, the commission's enthusiasm worked against it as five out of seven members threw their hat into the race. Things even got a bit heated when Commissioner Deirdre Crommie started arguing why she, and not former commission Chair Pat Markevitch, should be one of the three members on the subcommittee. She said Markevitch already had her chance to serve on a highly visible panel the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission and complained that Markevitch didn't update her Parks and Recreation colleagues as often as she should have on that commission's progress. "Pat's gotten to do her piece already and we need someone new," Crommie said. Commissioners Stacey Ashlund, Jennifer Hetterly and Chair Ed Lauing also expressed their desire to serve on the subcommittee (the only two people who didn't volunteer Paul Losch and Daria Walsh plan to step down soon, when their terms expire). In the end, the glut of enthusiasm killed the nomination process and the commission voted to table the item and return to the topic later this month.

Comments

Posted by SKY'S THE LIMIT??????????!!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm


Can someone please explain how the people on the Architectural board get to have a say in scrapping the the city's 50-foot height limit?

How do they have these conversations with no input from the residents?

Web Link

"SKY'S THE LIMIT ... How high is too high? That is the central question these days for Palo Alto officials awash in building proposals. Normally, the city's 50-foot height limit — a long-standing sacred cow of local zoning regulations — offers a simple answer to this question. But with developers looking to place four giant office towers at 27 University Ave. and two huge office buildings on Page Mill Road, these aren't normal times. Faced with these proposals, a hot real estate market and heavy demand for affordable housing, city officials are now considering ways to loosen the height limit and encourage more growth. The Architectural Review Board tackled this subject Thursday morning, with several members expressing support for allowing exceptions to the 50-foot height limit or, as one member suggested, scrapping it entirely. Most board members were open to taller buildings, particularly in downtown and along El Camino Real. "I'm really in favor of us trying to find a different way to manage this and to create opportunities for different heights, where mass and scale can be balanced appropriately in recognition of neighborhood concerns," said board member Randy Popp, who works downtown. But any solution, he said, should carefully consider the parking impacts of the taller buildings. Board member Alex Lew said there are plenty of examples of seven-to-10-story buildings in neighboring communities and advocated surveying other areas for examples that work well in downtown locations. Board member Clare Malone Prichard was particularly enthusiastic about changing the height regulations. "I'm of a mind to not have a height limit anymore," she said, noting that the city's density regulations already limit building sizes. But she acknowledged that making the change would be a tall task. "There's a big fear in this town of tall buildings so that's not going to fly," she said."


Posted by SKY'S THE LIMIT??????????!!k, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm


Board member Clare Malone Prichard was particularly enthusiastic about changing the height regulations. "I'm of a mind to not have a height limit anymore," she said,

Does Clare Malone Prichard live in Palo Alto? her address sounds like an office building

why is Mrs. Prichard particularly enthusiastic about not having a height limit ANYMORE?


Posted by Sky's the limit for making money, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 8, 2012 at 12:34 am

Architects work for developers. The bigger the building the more money the developer makes and the more money the architect makes. Yay!
Let the residents worry about later outcomes, traffic, crowding, schools.
And it takes more creativity and ingenuity to design a small building than a big one.


Posted by Sky's the limit for making money, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 8, 2012 at 1:02 am

Pritchard lives in Cupertino.
Also she is now a member of the Garber - Young firm, composed mostly of members of the ARB and Planning Commission. So these boards which are supposed to make independent decisions about proposals to the city are rife with moral conflicts of interest. Corruption has become so open no one even notices it or remarks on it.
City Manager is busy cozying up to Arrillaga and Stanford, can't count on him to care.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2012 at 9:48 am

As every poster on this thread realizes, ARB members have a structural (no pun) conflict of interest that prevents them from doing fair reviews that comply with resident desires and city ordninances.

The law requires them to take public input at their meetings. But be sure you have a hard shell against arrogant condescension.


Posted by Sky is the limit?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2012 at 10:09 am


Editor,

You do a pretty fair job covering issues about our schools, and zoning issues and more construction are critical to our schools.

Huge implications to building more and taller, and turning the town into a tourism playground. Cars, traffic, crime, and more cars.

Please write about how these ideas to change Palo Alto will impact our schools, and way of life here.

Including how people who do not even live here are making these decisions for us?

How do these people get these jobs?


Posted by Sky's the limit for making money, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm

The Garber - Young private architectural firm, is composed mostly of members of the ARB and Planning Commission. Including Malone Pritchard.
City boards are supposed to make independent decisions about proposals to the city but they are rife with moral conflicts of interest.
Corruption has become so open no one even notices it or remarks on it.
But we notice the ugly large buildings they approve.
Bigger building = Bigger $$$ = Corruption


Posted by why have a plan?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Palo Alto has a plan and zoning codes that include limits. The value of a plan is that everyone from residents to developers can know what the future holds and can plan on it. Decision makers are routinely ignoring the plans so the plans and planning process have become meaningless, and a joke. Everyone should contact the Council and say "enough". Then they should tell staff and the appointed ARB "enough".


Posted by sky the limit?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm

why have a plan?

What if nobody is paying attention, and not enough people say enough? There are no safeguards?

I notice you're in Crescent Park - we are the most impacted by this situation. I was on South California Avenue today and noticed how much calmer it is there.

ARB and Parks commission who I think has already approved moving McArthur park restaurant "prepping" for this project, it's all shameless. Have they approved the move?


Posted by sky the limit?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I was on South California Avenue today and noticed how much calmer it is there.

Meant to add, compared to our already congested downtown area. Blood pressure goes down a notch.


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