http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2013/04/26/park-redesign-delayed-by-concerns-over-dogs-historic-building


Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 26, 2013

Park redesign delayed by concerns over dogs, historic building

Commission: El Camino Park needs open space

by Gennady Sheyner

When Palo Alto broke ground in October 2011 on construction of an underground reservoir at El Camino Park, the goal was to complete the work and have the park re-opened to sports teams by this summer.

But while the utilities work is proceeding on schedule, the redesign of the north Palo Alto park remains up in the air. Recent proposals to expand the parking area and build a dog park have necessitated a flurry of design changes and a re-evaluation of planned park amenities.

A proposal by developer John Arrillaga to build a massive office complex and a theater at 27 University Ave. has added another wrinkle. His plan calls for relocating the historic Hostess House, which currently houses the MacArthur Park restaurant, to another site, with the nearby El Camino Park as one of the candidates.

The looming uncertainty over the Hostess House — designed by Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle — is threatening to hold up El Camino Park's reopening, a fact that doesn't sit well with the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. On Tuesday night, April 23, the commission voted 5-1, with Stacey Ashlund dissenting and Pat Markevitch absent, to endorse a memo that recommends keeping the Hostess House away from the park. The memo argues that moving the building into the small park would effectively leave the park without open space for unstructured play and require a relocation of the park's soccer field to the north.

For the same reason, the commission is recommending not including a dog park, despite direction from the City Council that this amenity is badly needed in north Palo Alto and should be explored for El Camino. The commission had previously recommended placing the park in a eucalyptus grove that is separated from the rest of the park by Alma Street/Palo Alto Avenue. That option proved unfeasible because of environmental laws (the dogs would be too close to the steelhead trout in the San Francisquito Creek). So a redesign shifted the dog area to the park's mainland. But doing so, the memo states, "compromises the one true open space in the original design."

The commission's memo also recommends a possible location for the Julia Morgan building, which once stood in Menlo Park and functioned as a reunion point for World War I soldiers and their families. Palo Alto's soon-to-be renovated golf course in the Baylands should be considered as the top option, the memo states.

"The historic building would have very high visibility as the only structure in the open space of the new Baylands course," the memo states. "The building would enhance and be compatible with the beauty of the new golf course design and replace the eyesore clubhouse/restaurant building currently on the site."

The memo also offers a contingency plan should the council decide to move the Hostess House to El Camino Park: scrapping the dog park and reducing the size of the soccer field to create more space around it. And in case the council doesn't pursue that option either, Commission Chair Ed Lauing proposed an even more radical step: removing the softball field, which was heavily used before the park closed for renovation.

Lauing, who presented the memo to the commission, said that the fundamental message that should be conveyed to the council is that the Julia Morgan building has become the "driver of the design of the entire El Camino Park."

"All these problems can be solved by putting the Julia Morgan building somewhere else instead of in front of El Camino Park," Lauing said.

He added that the building should not "hold hostage" the reopening of El Camino Park.

The Parks and Recreation Commission isn't the only local board that has come out against a potential relocation of the Hostess House. Last year, the Historic Review Board blasted Arrillaga's proposal to move the building, citing the importance of the location to the building's historical status. The commission's criticism is based largely on a lack of space at El Camino Park, not the building.

"Something's got to go," Lauing said Tuesday. "There's just too much stuff jammed in there."

His colleagues agreed, though Commissioner Keith Reckdahl balked at recommending the closure of the softball field, even as a contingency measure.

The dilemma over the new location for the Hostess House is unlikely to be solved any time soon. The council's hearing on the Arrillaga proposal was rescheduled several times in March and once again in April. There is currently no set date for a public hearing on 27 University Ave., Councilman Greg Schmid said this week.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Warren Wonka, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2013 at 9:43 am

Why doesn't Arrillaga build his complex on the other side of El Camino - at Palo Alto and Quarry.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2013 at 10:41 am

>Why doesn't Arrillaga build his complex on the other side of El Camino - at Palo Alto and Quarry.

Why doesn't Palo Alto get over its obsession with old buildings, especially those designed by noted architects? The building in question is a watering hole (booze) that is not of the original meaning a hostess house (return and reunion of WWI soldiers with their families). It was moved to its current site from Menlo Park. There is no way that we should be supporting its continuation, if it means that we have to give up playing fields.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

People in obsessed with " historic" buildings, especially if a "pseudo famous" name is attached-- hence the Le affair with the hostess house and anything connected with Eichler. You would have thought that the city would have learned something from the slap,on the wrist administered by the voters a decade ago when they rejected the historic home grab. Unfortunately the architect behind that is on the council and she still has her blinders on


Posted by Return it to Menlo Park, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2013 at 11:34 am

We should return McArthur Park (Hostess House) to Menlo Park and let them find a place to put it, after all it was their's in the first place. Let's have Arrillaga pay for the relocation.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

>You would have thought that the city would have learned something from the slap,on the wrist administered by the voters a decade ago when they rejected the historic home grab

It was more than a slap on the wrist, it was a grenade thrown into their nest. The people spoke.

It sounds like the Barron Park people are speaking.

Will our city council continue to listen to PAHC, or will they listen to the people?


Posted by Try Google, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Not an Issue, your ignorance is embarrassing. The architect was Julia Moran, a very famous architect. Among other buildings she designed the Hearst Castle. Surely you have heard of that?
A quick Google search will enable you to find out what you are missing.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 28, 2013 at 12:18 am

Try google-- just because she designed Hearst castle does not mean that the hostess house is anything special. It is not an original palo alto structure and it has been used as a restaurant-- hardly a fitting use for such a " historic" building. What s ignorant is believing that because it has a certain name (and don't you think Hearst castle s a little overdone?) attached to it makes it historic or special-- but I understand, as a palo alto resident you ave to feel special by elevating structures to " historic" status


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Not: I agree with your theory in most respects. For example, the Eichler zealots and the Edgewood Shopping Center was a ridiculous time waster. Thankfully the project is getting done.

However in the case of the Hostess House, there's more than just the architect. The house was built for a specific purpose back in the day --- and there's some honor in that; which should not be so easily dismissed. At least that's my opinion.

Baron Park is not the place. Off the beaten path and not readily seen or accessed by most Palo Altans or the general public. It is a building meant for use by the public (whether its original intent or as a restaurant to day). Hiding it off in a corner of Baron Park is not the answer --- besides, the anti-neighborhood-traffic folks would have a problem with it as well.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

"You would have thought that the city would have learned something from the slap,on the wrist administered by the voters a decade ago when they rejected the historic home grab."

Maybe it's time to revote that thing. Maybe attitudes have changed in the past dozen years -- think of gay acceptance for example. Maybe people have seen enough of the alternatives (think 800 High, Elks, JCC, etc.) to vote FOR protecting our city's character. How about it?


Posted by Return it to Menlo Park, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Downtown North neighbor says: "Maybe it's time to revoke that thing." The Historic Ordinance which was defeated some ten years ago had the potential to historically preserve all original houses and neighborhoods that were 50 years or more old. In other words your house could not be altered, enlarged or rebuilt. It would be stuck in a time warp.

If that ordinance was enacted today it would put a huge hole in our escalating property values. As it is homes that are now saddled with "single story overlay" are losing value compared with homes in neighborhoods that allow two stories to be built. Realtors must disclose if your house is limited by "single story overlay."