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Luxury hotel plan slammed in city review

Original post made on Jun 6, 2008

An attempt to add a bit of Las Vegas to Palo Alto was swatted down by a city committee and a group of vocal residents last week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 6, 2008, 2:01 PM

Comments (38)

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Posted by ToldUSo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2008 at 2:46 pm

We need the tax revenue. This hotel would have helped.


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Posted by Need tax revenue
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2008 at 3:00 pm

That will do it everytime--a group of vocal residents and a city committee intimidated by said residents


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Here's what's wrong with the process. Everyone intends to do the right thing, but there is a *structural* flaw in the way developments like this go forward.

Developers, like all other business persons, are interested in making a profit. Profit is not an evil word; it's a good thing.

Municipal planning groups need to be consulted by developers, to see what's possible on a site.

Usually, when a development opportunity is perceived, the developer will go to the city and have the city begin to do the necessary permitting groundwork, and other site diligence.

Following that process, the developer, knowing the range of parameters within which s/he can proceed, introduces the project.

This is NOT WORKING!

Might I suggest that *as soon as* development efforts begin to be looked into, that the city notify the appropriate neighborhood groups and *put them in touch with the developer*, or vice-versa.

What would this accomplish? Neighbors and developers would be able to work closer together *up front*, so that neighborhood considerations could be built into the developer proposals.

There is no reason that the front-end of the process that i described above should be isolated from residents.

If the developer is working in good faith, AND residents are ASSUMING that they can work with the developer (instead of some current residential forces assuming that developers are evil - a mistaken assumption), then more positive first iteration outcomes might result.

None of this would eliminate conflict, and disagreement. That will happen in most development projects. What will result is a more inclusive process *from the beginning* that gives all parties - city, developer, residents (who support city function with their taxes) - an opportunity to weigh in before first iterations are completed.

Instead, what we currently have is a process embedded with mistrust on all sides, with nothing in sight to deflate the ballooning idea that growth is bad from the perspective of residents; or, thata residents are hardheaded and stubborn from the perspective of the developers; or, that the city doesn't care about either entity.

These are mistaken assumptions; they exist only because we have not innovated *process*. Someone has to take the lead.



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Posted by too much traffic as always blah blah blah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 6, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Obviously the Architectural Review Board never got the memo about the city council's 'Destination Palo Alto'.

The city wants to increase tourism without increasing traffic and without building hotels. I'd like to see that happen.

Shashi Corp should have known better than to deal with Palo Alto. It should have remembered how Hyatt was killed by the 'Palo Alto process'. It should have wondered why Four Seasons decided to build in East Palo Alto instead of Palo Alto. Shashi Corp should take its million dollar investment and go to Mountain View... that's where I do all my shopping nowadays.


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Posted by Too much traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Well said-too much traffic as always blah blah blah.

You might want to read Diana Diamond's column in today's Daily Post--she is talking about what the council wantsto see in the new city manager--not good financial management practices, but strong environmental beliefs!!!

This is why our city is in the shape it is in!!!


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Posted by It's I
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2008 at 6:52 am

How narrow-minded to use the need for tax revenue as the main criterion for this proposal. Doesn't the property tax on Palo Alto's many million-dollar-plus homes provide a large enough tax base?

This project is all wrong for Page Mill Road. It would be overpowering at that location and it would disrupt a residential neighborhood. That said, the story mischaracterizes the project. A five-story structure is considered low-rise by Las Vegas standards. The Las Vegas metaphor is flawed. (The Cabana Hotel is eight stories, BTW.)


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Posted by Remembering
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2008 at 11:53 am

What happened to "destination Palo Alto," for that we need hotels. If the Council really wants to promote Palo Alto as a destination they must get behind this hotel project.

Remember the hotel which was to be built on the Hyatt Ricky's site? Because no member of the City Council really got involved in the project, we lost a perfectly good hotel and got a hideous condominium complex instead.

Anything new in this town gets slammed down by some commission or individual, and the City Council is too weak to stand up to them. Remember, you may not like this project but you could get something much worse, like hundreds of condos, or a big industrial building.


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Posted by Soccer field
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2008 at 12:47 pm

The hotel I remember is the one for the corner of Page Mill and El Camino, a perfect location, not next to residential uses and excellent automobile access.
They made a soccer field out of it. what a giveaway.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2008 at 1:23 pm

The soccer field analogy is a red herring. The land was Stanford's to do with it what it wanted and it didn't want a hotel. It wanted housing which it got in the deal with City of PA and we got a soccer field as part of that deal. The soccer field was very much needed, is very much used, and yes the site is not ideal for a soccer field for many reasons. But, it does bring in revenue to the City because we do have visiting teams coming in and using the facilities. These teams do spend money and would probably spend more if there were better snack/eating facilities close at hand. Granted, though this is not the same revenue that a hotel would produce.

The area around Sand Hill is not what many of us would call residential. There are residences there, but I would call it condo land and those that live there are probably not going to be long term residents. I would point out that I do not know this area well and if you think otherwise, then I bow to the knowledge of someone who lives there and knows the area better.


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Posted by Jody
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2008 at 1:30 pm

The soccer field and the proposed site for the new hotel are over areas where the groundwater is highly contaminated. No underground parking or excavation can be allowed. There is a possibility that vapors from the volatile organic compounds can become trapped inside new structures. If they reach the groundwater when they excavate, it can be complicated and may interfere with remediation efforts already underway.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Why not combine the hotel with the new public safety building as a leaseback, and stone two birds with one crow? Everything between Page Mill and Frys needs to be rezoned away from residential. I had an office on Pepper for a while, and do not consider it prime residential.


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2008 at 9:04 pm

The description from the Daily made this proposed hotel sound worse - statues of Silicon Valley pioneers?? etc - yuck this is NOT Vegas. In this case I am with the neighbors objecting to this proposal.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2008 at 2:39 am

Give each of the neighbors a million and dust them off. That is not a prime residential area.


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Posted by Questions
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2008 at 10:00 am

Someone remind me why the opinions of many people who live someplace are less important than those of a few people who want to build something there.
Do the opinions of people in "prime" residential areas count more than people in not so prime areas?
"Dust them off?" Walter, you have become a danger to a civilized society.


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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Without folks like me, ther might not be any civilized society, buster. I don't consider a million bucks to be an insult and the people just voted to allow cities to clear the way for private developers. The need for a location for the public safety building would justify taking with compensation, and the leaseback would preserve city capital.


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Posted by anon.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Page Mill and El Camino should primarily be for businesses, hotels, car dealerships. Not housing.


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Posted by Trevor Clark
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Whiners will find fault will all things they don't have to pay for.

That is the way it is and will always be. That is why we will have $9.50 gas soon. Thanks to the whiners that say no to coastal oil exploration, nuke power, and more refineries.

The good news is most will not be around here in 18,250 days, the sooner the next generation takes over the better we will all be.

More logic and less emotion.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:07 am

Trevor, better buy a scooter. It's going to be painful to give up your gas guzzler, isn't it?


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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:21 am

LibLudds have clearly demonstrated that it is never painful to them to give up someone else's something. LibLudds are the sand in the bearings of civilization.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 9, 2008 at 12:04 pm

"Municipal planning groups need to be consulted by developers, to see what's possible on a site. ... Following that process, the developer, knowing the range of parameters within which s/he can proceed, introduces the project"

Uh-uh. This is how things should work in an ideal world with thoughtful land use planning and a consistent application of zoning regulations. That is not how things are done in Palo Alto. Developers have learned how to use the city's Planned Community (PC) rezoning-to-order option to bypass that neat process that we small fry must follow and grossly overbuild the property as they wish. It tosses out the existing zoning and lets developers negotiate building allowances from the ground up with a compliant city hall.

Having paid far too much for the property to recover their investment by followng the rules, savvy developers invoke this freeform gift of development concessions to cover their speculative gamble. In effect, our city underwrites and encourages land price (but not value) hyperinflation in Palo Alto. 800 High Street near my neighborhood is a famous example, having been built to 3X the normal zoning allowances on its site.

The egregiously misnamed Planned Community spot zoning is at the core of almost all Palo Alto development disputes. It is the Wild West corner of our city "planning." These range wars and OK Corral shootouts are an inevitable part of it.


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Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 9, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Well. I never read this on-line post before - a little vitriol, have we here?
Answer to one poster - no, the city doesn't get much revenue from property taxes, about 9 cents on the dollar. Yes, city revenue is not a bad criterion for judging a project - just not the only one. The ARB was not opposed to A hotel, just THIS hotel.
I noticed most of the angriest writers live in other neighborhoods, not the one in question. Perhaps you have not seen the proposal? It was a five-story glass wall facing Page Mill and a five-story concrete wall with some windows facing a single-family residential neighborhood, not to mention the 2 end walls that had no windows at tall.
I think Mr Wallis should try less ad-hominem arguments.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:00 pm

"Give each of the neighbors a million and dust them off. That is not a prime residential area."

Can't do that anymore in this state, Walter. Prop 99.


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Posted by Fry's forever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2008 at 3:18 pm

If the City really cared about that neighborhood, they would not be granting extensions to Fry's Electronics. That site is zoned residential and should be housing by now. It is all sitting over a giant groundwater contamination plume. That is why the 195 Page Mill project was halted by a judge recently.

The ARB just wants to micro-design all projects that come before them. Worst commission... ever.


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Posted by Midtown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Let's see: Architecturally, as you drive from El Camino on Oregon expressway towards 101, you see:




1. A beautiful green glassed building on the right which used to


be populated by HP/Agilent (why still empty???);




2. Opposite, on the left, several four story-ish, newish condo/apartment buildings




3. Farther off left (still on Oregon facing east) the County


Courthouse (Big-five stories?)




4. As you descend into the Oregon underpass, you see to the right


the Dewey-something sign (national law firm?) on a modernish four or five story building, which is circular on one side and flat on another.




(Sorry, I'm at home trying to remember the details. Take a


drive and check it out yourself.)




So they want to put a four or five story modern hotel on


the block preceding this, supplanting a small ATT cellular


building, and next, a small house converted to a business, and next,


a small bonzai plant business, then a small paint store---


all an eyesore because it's a hodgepodge of mostly old


small cottages converted to small, not to say little frequented


businesses (except for that ATT cellphone stop, which is way too


small for the congested parking it causes).




Sounds like a good move to me: Why not join to the already-existing business architecture on a busy business expressway, replacing some


superannuated conversions and a few residential hangers-on, who


will get plenty of money to buy a newer, less trafficy place.
Posted by Midtown Guy, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 1 minutes ago


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Posted by Fry's forever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2008 at 5:08 pm

"You've set yourself back so far by presenting this proposal that you may not recover," [Solnick] said.

Let's just scare these guys away, why don't we. What a terrible thing for a commissioner to say.

Midtown Guy is absolutely correct. Take a look at Google Earth to see the neighborhood context. A glass 4 Seasons type hotel would fit right in. We're going to "Palo Alto Process" ourselves right out of this hotel just like Hyatt Rickey's. Thanks ARB.




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Posted by Fry's forever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Right across the street (El Camino) are a couple of 10-story buildings in what is known as Palo Alto Square. Here is a Microsoft site that shows the area in context (see the bird's eye view): Web Link

The Old Pro is now gone and construction is in progress. This neighborhood is almost dead. Just give it another reason to die and Palo Alto can reap the benefits with renewed investment within walking distance of the train station. Get with the program ARB. You owe this project an apology.



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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 7:25 pm

It's absurd not to let his go forward. Some slight iteration of the facade might be in order, but let's not kill this golden goose!


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Posted by aoc gold88
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 9, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Age Of Conan Gold aoc gold

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


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Posted by Alex Lew
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2008 at 11:36 pm

In general, a modern building could be appropriate for the location, but the developer only has a small mid-block parcel surrounded by houses. From the rendering published in the paper, you might think they owned the whole block, but they don't. Their proposal was simply too large for their site.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2008 at 11:50 pm

The area is hardly a dead neighborhood. The Ventura area is small houses, apartments and some McMansions. More to the point, it is the most affordable part of Palo Alto. Yeah, it's not an ideal residential area, but Palo Alto isn't a large city and so residential bumps up against commercial because the demand for both is greater than the amount of space.

I wouldn't mind a hotel there, but I can see where the neighbors are coming from on this one.


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Posted by Fry's forever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:16 am

This is NOT the Ventura area neighborhood! It is a small block of single family homes sandwiched between the former Agilent office monstrosity, Fry's Electronics, El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. Most of the single-family properties are being bought up by the owner's of the Fry's site and other developers. All of the homes are going to disappear in a few years. Why prolong the agony? I would bet that most of the residents who spoke out against the project are renters.


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Posted by Dump the ARB
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:16 am

I see that Judith Wasserman has chimed in above--cannot be sure if it is the real Judith Wasserman or someone posting under her name. If it is the real Judith, then she is a part of the ARB that has never liked a project (not sure if this is due to their worship of the PA Process or trying to appease vocal neighbors). Anyway, look how long it took them to sign off on Alma Plaza--clearly this is one of ou rmany city commissions that loves to play power games---they are fiddling while Rome burns.
Dump the ARB and let's start moving projects along


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:18 am

Why let this area get all the good stuff? This hotel would be an excellent complement to any single family neighborhood.

Why make our paying guests breathe vehicle fumes and listen to truck and train noise when they could relax in a quiet atmosphere punctuated by birds, children playing, and leaf blowers? It's tough to get, but once in it will be the camel's nose in the tent, assuring ever more revenue goodies for our fair city in its underdeveloped nabes.

It's inevitable, so get started early for the best deal. Get with the program, St. Claire Gardens. Go for the flow, Old Palo Alto. Get moving, Duveneck. Only one of you can be the first.


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Posted by Get with the program
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:43 am

I like Paul's suggestion. But lets not leave out Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton where many of our developers live. Share the 5 and 4 story crap they build for us!


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Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 10, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Yeah, that was me, the REAL Judith Wasserman - not like some anonymous posters - who likes many, many well-designed projects. In fact, we approved FIVE of them the same day we discussed the hotel. We had no objection to the land use, just this particular design, which was WAY too big, even considering Agilent and all the other neighboring building, NONE of which back up against single family houses.
All you complainers ought to come to our meetings, see what the projects really look like and what we really do. You are making fools of yourselves by talking about things you haven't seen.


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Posted by Fry's forever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:17 pm

How about they just watch the show Judith: Web Link

The ARB reamed this applicant. Your comments indicate that you are totally closed minded to anything bold and different. "reflective glass is not allowed in Palo Alto". Why not?

I'm just glad there isn't an engineering review board. We'd wind up with a few people like Walter Wallis on such a board.


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Posted by Pepper Ave Resident
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 11, 2008 at 9:46 pm

As one of the many HOMEOWNERS that attended the ARB's meeting and that would be affected by the hotel, I feel like I have to chime in here. I think the ARB is spot-on when they said that this proposal doesn't fit in this location. I agree that the 4 lots on Page Mill Road don't necessarily make sense as residential homes. However, what everybody here has failed to mention or realize is that this project also wants to extend onto Pepper Avenue by taking up a residential lot in the middle of the block. The ARB wisely shot this down to maintain a neigbhorhood. The ARB is a review board and that is what they did - they reviewed Shashi's plans and told them where it was flawed. I can guarantee you that any PA homeowner would not want some gigantic hotel blocking their sunlight, views or bringing their property values down. The ARB's thoughtful review of projects such as these and careful consideration of their size, design and impact is what seperates Palo Alto from the other bay area towns.


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Posted by Ash
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2009 at 8:48 am

I noticed most of the angriest writers live in other neighborhoods, not the one in question. Perhaps you have not seen the proposal? It was a five-story glass wall facing Page Mill and a five-story concrete wall with some windows facing a single-family residential neighborhood, not to mention the 2 end walls that had no windows at tall. Web Link


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