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Palo Alto set to rule on downtown 'Gateway' building

Original post made on May 14, 2012

A revised plan to build a prominent "gateway" building at the downtown intersection of Alma Street and Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto will be the subject of a public hearing tonight. ==B Related stories:==
• [Web Link Editorial: Money as a 'public benefit'?]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 14, 2012, 9:35 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Cynthia Suri
a resident of Community Center
on May 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

I suppose the idea of a building in that space isn't so bad, but this one is just so generic and so ugly.

Can't the City be more selective with the design? Please find an architect with some style! The public should have a say in the kind of building that goes up. Since this isn't up for discussion, it seems like the City has made up its mind and this eye-sore will become the new gateway to our City. YUK!!


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Posted by Don
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2012 at 10:17 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on May 14, 2012 at 10:31 am

That's a totally undistinguished building that after the gloss of novelty wears off will soon look like a giant eye-sore on the face of downtown Palo Alto. I'm appalled that we have so little taste as to approve a piece of architectural mediocrity like this, just to get a few sub-market housing units and a non-profit office. The worsening of parking will be noticeable and no one seems to care about it. Funding a "traffic study" is rubbish. The building will add hundreds of new cars in downtown, face it. Palo Alto CC members don't seem to care one bit if slowly but surely the city is being transformed in a giant downtown traffic jam.


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Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

I am so tired of the people in OUR city council making screwed up decisions for us. We have certain restrictions for a reason.
Why do some people THINK that they are SO SPECIAL they can change the rules to suit them? JCC !!! for starters, Cal Ave and now this? I just don't get it.


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Posted by Realist
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2012 at 10:46 am

Cynthia, private developers will only undertake a project if it is capable of achieving their required rate of return. The 355 Alma project is just a four story building, with only so much leasable space.

I'm sure you will agree that "architects with some style" are more expensive than generic architects. Likewise, constructing an architecturally distinctive building is more costly than slapping up the big, bland box that is being proposed by the developers.

Apparently, the Palo Alto community has decided that $6 million worth of subsidized NGO space, $1.25 million for offsite "affordable housing", electric charging stations, public parking studies, and cash "in-lieu" payments are more important "public benefits" than constructing a gateway to our city that we can be proud of. Can't have everything!


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Posted by comp plan please
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2012 at 10:49 am

The developers are betting that they've put enough lipstick on this pig to get Council to say yes. Business as usual. Any bets?

Just the mere fact that the applicants are tallying funds needed to meet requirements as money to "public benefits" should be a red flag that this project is being "sold" with every trick in the book, rather than a meeting of a building site with legitimate public needs that would have gone unmet with the current site zoning. Another bank branch as retail "public benefit"? Have you ever thought "we are sorely lacking for another bank branch here in downtown Palo Alto; let's subsidize a developer several million dollars in benefits to build one"?


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Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 14, 2012 at 10:57 am

So very tired of this--city "staff" in bed with developers. We have zoning for a reason!!! Quit circumventing it, obey the law. City council needs to represent the VOTERS, not the developers.


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Posted by Cynthia Suri
a resident of Community Center
on May 14, 2012 at 11:42 am

No no!! Please don't waste our precious money on a "parking study!"

I'll provide your answers for FREE. OK, here they are: by adding more cars, you will need more parking and there WILL be more traffic downtown.

Whew! Did I just spare us from dumping more money down the drain? :)


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Posted by Watch the City Council
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2012 at 11:50 am

I agree with Cur Mudgeon, <city "staff" in bed with developers.> No question about it. If only the newspapers would uncover it.
Tonight we will see which councilmembers let it happen. Listen to the meeting on your TV or computer, listen for the excuses they will give for letting Jim Baer have his way yet again. Another oversized underparked building.
Will they give the Chamber of Commerce subsidized office space? Can't wait to find out.


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Posted by money for nothing
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Yeah, at last the city council is allowing folks to buy exceptions to zoning regulations. Bye, bye that house vs. plot size restrictions, hello mega-mansions!!!


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Posted by What The?
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

For years the same folks who consistently post their malignant nonsensical theories once said the public unions ran the city. Now they claim the developers run the city. Heres an idea, if you don't agree withe the people running the city, don't continue voting for them. Why continue to vote for councilmembers who conveniently look the other way when developers propose eliminating "public benefits" from new structures? Why continue to pay an inept city manager over $500,000 in pay and benefits? Why continue paying over $250,000 for a Planning Director who works for the developers? Why pay a Chief Building Official over $250,000 in pay to ignore or exempt building enforcement regulations for major projects? You can sit and complain or actually take back your rights as residents of this city from the incompetent fools currently running the city. My sense is that the majority of those posting comments on this forum will simply choose to sit back posting comments into cyberspace and be content with the status quo. What a pity!


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Posted by Linda
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Make sure the benefits the developers are offering have extremely tight and hard contracts to bind them. Then there are also the "after the approval" changes to the original design that come into play.

How about just a cute shuttle station there - instead of more congestion to our communities...


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Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Zoning and height limitations were created for a reason. This precedent of exceptions to building codes is short-sighted. Well thought-out architectural aesthetics are essential, too. I agree with
Cynthia Suri and Linda. Too, the "goodies" offered by the developers will come and go, but a building of questionable appearance will remain. This is not a design that should be identified with Palo Alto.


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Posted by T Peak
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Everyone who comments should also send their comments to the city council. Further, come sit at the meeting tonight at 7pm. It is boring as anything but you do get 2 or 3 minutes to fell like you are being ignored as you remind the city council that they were elected to represent residents, to preserve a decent city to live in and to uphold the comprehensive plan and current zoning laws of this city. They were not voted into office to plan mega-cities and shove "new urban planning" theories down our throats that give developers millions of extra square footage while overcrowding the city with required ABAG housing, overcrowding our schools with more students than they can hold, clogging the streets and ruining quality of life in the city. But only a massive turnout at a council meeting will ever get their attention.


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