A three-member ad hoc subcommittee of the commission had proposed moving the 94-year-old, Julia Morgan-designed building, located near the University Avenue Caltrain station, to make way for a multi-story office building and performing-arts center. The new center, along with underground parking, has been proposed by developer-philanthropist John Arrillaga.
But the commission pulled back from the scheduled vote after meeting attendees said the move seemed like "putting the cart before the horse" since Arrillaga has yet to formally propose his project to the city.
Even ad hoc committee member Stacey Ashlund said she felt "this is a bit rushed into a vote tonight," adding, "Some of the other property considerations haven't been given fair due."
Margaret Feuer, president of the historic preservation group Palo Alto Stanford Heritage (PAST), said the group favors preserving the building, wherever it ends up being located.
"As soon as we heard about the Julia Morgan building and Mr. Arrillaga's plans, we were concerned, and our consensus was we want the building preserved," Feuer said.
"I came here tonight thinking, 'What a surprise that this was all happening and that Palo Alto — given that this is the Palo Alto process we're always complaining about — didn't seem to have much process regarding this particular location of the building.'"
City Recreation Department staff member Rob DeGeus said the issue came to the commission because Assistant City Manager Steve Emslie asked for an opinion on whether the building could be moved to nearby El Camino Park.
After commissioners concluded there was not enough space there, the city asked them to consider whether the building might be suitable for other parkland.
DeGeus told commissioners Tuesday: "It would be helpful to know a little more about the timeline of 27 University (Arrillaga's project)." He pledged to gather the information and return to the ad hoc committee.
As described in a March city staff report, the project concept includes "a new multi-story office building fronting El Camino Real, a separate theater building on approximately 60,000-80,000 square feet, and a three-level underground garage."
It also would include improvements to transit, pedestrian and bicycle connections. The city probably would need to rezone the property, most of which is owned by Stanford University, to accommodate the new office building.
Voters may also be asked to "undedicate" a driveway next to El Camino Park — currently dedicated parkland — to be used in the project, Emslie said in the March staff report.