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Edgewood Plaza rebirth could be delayed

Original post made on Feb 28, 2013

It took years of neighborhood meetings, litigation, zoning hearings and squabbles over the meaning of "historical" before the developer Sand Hill Property Company finally received a green light to redevelop the dilapidated Edgewood Plaza in Palo Alto's Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood. It took far less time for Sand Hill to demolish, without the city's permission, a building deemed to be historical and fling the long-awaited project back into planning purgatory.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 28, 2013, 4:29 PM

Comments (41)

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:53 pm

This is almost Kafkaesque.

"Built in the late 1950s, the plaza is a rare example of a commercial center constructed by the famed developer Joseph Eichler..."
More like a rare example of very ugly & useless. It's rare to sympathize w/a developer, but I do in this case.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:36 pm

What on earth is it going to take to get things done in Palo Alto?

The Mitchell Park library looks a mess - no work going on.

Edgewood looks a mess - no work going on.

Other messes around town and very little work appears to be done anywhere.

San Antonio, every time I pass it looks further along.

Why can't Palo Alto ever do anything right first time around? We are becoming a joke!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Questions
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Why didn't the developer ask for permission if the building was in such bad shape. And why didn't he check the building's condition beforehand?
Is it incompetence? Sure sounds like it.
Was it intentionally breaking the contract? Jim Baer was guiding this project for the developer. Did they consult him?
Anyway the grocery construction will proceed.Who cares about the rest.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2013 at 8:09 pm

If you want to punish the developer fine, but don't punish the residents by delaying the construction. Let's get it over with already. I'm tired of piles of dirt, chain link fence, and the construction traffic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm

OMG, can't believe it!
Again, my full and complete sympathies are with the developer.


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Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm

What should the consequence be to the Developer for the unauthorized demolition of the historic building.???

I propose that they not be allowed to replace the square footage of what they tore down. They will lose out on rentable income, but deserve to. Imposing such a sanction will certainly teach any future parties to adhere to the approvals that are granted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Js-- get real. The dump they tore down was in a sad state. Enough f the Eichler worship. Let's this project finished. If I were the developer and the city went along with your suggestions, I would completely alt the project and sue the city. Enough of this historic crap.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daley
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Feb 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Build a day worker center at Edgewood.


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Posted by Raymond
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:15 am

How ridiculous. More delay and resulting disruptions to the residents nearby. Pathetic foot dragging on every project in Palo Alto, even after approval.


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Posted by S. Brown
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 1, 2013 at 8:10 am

The building was an eye sore. The developer did us a favor tearing it down. Let them finish the work and get off his back.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:11 am

"It took far less time for Sand Hill to demolish, without the city's permission, a building deemed to be historical and fling the long-awaited project back into planning purgatory."

Either rank incompetence OR....they took a calculated gamble and wanted the tear-down to be a "fait accompli". They get a light slap on the wrist and it's just "the cost of doing business". The regulators may have even been winking at them as it occurred.

Even if one agrees that the building should have been torn down, do we really want to encourage this type of reach around? The developer should be fined or sanctioned such that it serves as a warning to any future such actions.

There is also a weird NIMBYism going on. Some of the local residents want it all converted to single family dwellings, plus have the access to 101 blocked from Channing. Hence the speed bumps which make one go slower than the speed limit (not I, but alot), traffic counters, etc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:22 am

Whatever the city decides, please do not stop the construction.

Fine the developer. Works for me.

Move on and get it done!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:20 am

totally predictable entitled developer and weak city staff enabled by a a spineless city council.....at some point this kind of abuse of the public needs to be honestly addressed by city leaders......regardless of ones opinion of the historic merit; developers are not above the law and morality and land use designations and responsibility to their community


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Posted by frustrated & irritated
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

Fine the developer - make them build a park, coffee shop and move on. Place was IMO a huge eye sore. And this construction is making life quite miserable.

I totally agree with Tucker wrote, "lies in the architecture and the representation of mid-twentieth-century planning, not in the materials used to build it."

Keep the chracter of the mid-century architecture and move on. We NEED a grocery store, a coffee shop and a place for StFrancis/Duv to hang out safely and peacefully.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

We have lived in an Eichler on Greer for over 30 years and did all of our grocery shopping at Lucky/Albertsons. I first used the center in 1967 when I was in grad school.

Even in its first decade, the center did not attract much business. I personally always believed that the design and architecture simply did not work. I really like what was then called "contemporary" design, but this center was not very friendly to people.

The building in question was in very bad shape and I can understand starting over on it.

We have lost some wonderful old buildings in Palo Alto but this is not one of them.

It is time to move forward. I hope that the people near the center who have thus far "controlled" this whole process will start to think about the future and take the rest of the community into account.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:09 am

It was NOT an attractive shopping center. And it should not be controlled by a handful of residents of this so-called outdated 'covenant'. The 'neighborhood' is huge and does not belong to ninety homeowners. This could have been settled years ago if it had not been for Frank Benest and City Haul interference. ONWARD. Just do it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old School
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

I agree with frustrated and irrtated...

Fine the developer, let them do something relevant (and potentially significant) for the city for their stupid error in judgement, and move on. The existing buildings were not attractive and, although I have sympathy for those that were Eichler lovers, we need to get the center up and running so we can start taking advantage of it before we are all six feet under!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by E.S.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:28 am

I hope the City Council members are reading the above comments or someone is passing on to them the gist of the messages: move on and let's get our shopping center - no more delays, please!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GG
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

Remember: A real Junk is a Palo Alto's treasure


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get it done!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Eichler buildings were not well built in the first place--framing on a slab, no insulation, with the roofing materials right on the ceiling. They were mass produced to get housing quickly. Most of the houses have very livable reverse floor plans with the house opening to the rear yard. His genius was in building such a user friendly house.

Edgewood Plaza needs to be finished so the neighbors can use it. It has been an eyesore too long.

If anything fine Sand Hill BUT let the project be finished.

Do not let a few people stop the process.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by IMBY
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm

The developer entered into an agreement with the city which enabled the developer to obtain a Planned Community zoning designation and thus exemption from standard zoning restrictions. The developer blatantly violated this agreement. The reinstatement of normal zoning requirements appropriately addresses this situation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm

The new building looks much better than the old one and is totally in keeping with the spirit of the original Eichler structure. Fine the developer, but please let them finish. This area has been an embarrassing eyesore for way too long.


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Posted by Love the PA Process
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Eichler designed ONLY one commercial property. I wonder why.....


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I see no reason to fine or punish the developers. They have been remarkably patient throughout this whole process.

The building does not represent a loss to the community. The new design looks better.

Let's hope that the new center will be attractive to people and will do good business and serve people well. The old one was something of a mess.


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Aren't the normal steps to correcting an "error":
1. Remove safety hazards
2. Restore normal functions
3. Determine fault
4. Assign fines
Therefore if the destroyed building was "was supposed to be disassembled, relocated" there is no reason to halt progress just come up with a replacement benefit and fine before the builder runs out of money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JM
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm


The issue is not whether the building should have been torn down.

The developers were not "patient." The developers were "patient" only in the sense that they waited as long as it took to get special treatment from the council to exceed the zoning designation. A small price to pay for the vastly more profitable project the developers had in mind. The developers could have built within the allowed zoning limits at any time.

The issue is, if the developers are allowed to demolish a building without a city permit, and profit, paves the way for every other developer to do the same. Ooops. Too bad. So sorry. Won't do that again.

I say, go ahead with the development but do not let the developer profit from this. Either in the short or long term.

Reduce the project scope by all the allowable square footage that this building represented.

Unfortunately in recent years the city council members have abused Palo Alto's zoning requirements too often. Handing out "Planned Community" designations to vastly exceed allowable square footage on request. Now every major developer in their right mind applies for special permission to vastly exceed zoning requirements.


Developers know the cat is out of the bag. All they have to do is haggle with the council and provide laughable "public benefits. " And roll right over the council. At best this results in minor public benefits. At minimal cost to the developer over the life of the building. In return, those of us who live here might wonder who the council represents.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by C.K.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:16 pm

ENOUGH ALREADY! The buildings have been run down for decades. The historical building probably fell down while in process of being moved.
This project will be an asset to the entire area. Let's move on and get it complete.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Fine the developer and get on with construction. Palo Alto needs money for infrastructure repairs, not endless delays to assuage wounded egos.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Definitely time to move on. For those concerned about the historical preservation of this site, I have to wonder where you were as the buildings became a dilapidated eyesore over the past three decades? Where was the outrage and concern as the shopping center lot became a haven for drug users and dumping ground for stolen cars? If the buildings were such a precious piece of architecture, then why didn't we hear about any efforts to do even the slightest maintenance. Why? Because there wasn't any.

Once again a vocal minority throw a wrench into much needed progress. We have more pressing concerns. There are other priorities to attend to. It's time to move on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Former resident...I agree with A Noun Ea Mus and Anon.

The issue here is the WAY the demolition was done, which raises suspicions and was certainly against the rules. I think they tried to pull a fast one and succeeded, unless they get slapped with the fine they deserve. If a legitimate case could have so easily been made that the building was doomed, then why not follow the rules and get the permit? They even destroyed the evidence before anyone could verify. This stinks and it was ILLEGAL so quit coddling these law-breaking developers and make him pay the fine. The city can certainly use the money. So many people here went off on tangents that didn't address the primary issue of an illegal act on the part of the developer. Don't need to refight all previous associated issues every time a single one arises, people! Keep to the subject.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another neighbor
a resident of Duveneck School
on Mar 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

PLEASE do not delay the construction any longer!
The place needed to be torn down- to put it mildly.
No more environmental studies!!! Just get it done.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

As the years went on and on with Lucky-Albertsons as the grocery tenant, the quality of food deteriorated, the inside of the grocery store deteriorated, the neighborhood grocery shoppers went other places, and there were few neighborhood store patrons. The store itself became very dismal. Crime went up outside the store, shoplifting inside the store. More "Neighbors" fled to other stores. This is no secret. Then the entire derelict sat there and fell apart year after year. The "neighborhood" has had enough. The Eichler"Covenant" should get out of the way. Did Mr. Eichler foresee what he 'wrought'? Does any other city have to put up with this?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

As the years went on and on with Lucky-Albertsons as the grocery tenant, the quality of food deteriorated, the inside of the grocery store deteriorated, the neighborhood grocery shoppers went other places, and there were few neighborhood store patrons. The store itself became very dismal. Crime went up outside the store, shoplifting inside the store. More "Neighbors" fled to other stores. This is no secret. Then the entire derelict sat there and fell apart year after year. The "neighborhood" has had enough. The Eichler"Covenant" should get out of the way. Did Mr. Eichler foresee what he 'wrought'? Does any other city have to put up with this?


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Posted by JM
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 2, 2013 at 11:03 am

Yes, go ahead with the project. I have no doubt at all this building should have been torn down.

The question is what kind of precedent the city council wants to establish when a developer blatantly violates their contract.

The developer took a calculated risk that our spineless city council will do nothing more than impose a fine for this violation. Any fine will be miniscule compared to the long term profit.

Instead the city council should reduce the square footage allowed for the site by the amount of square footage that was torn down.

This is a very public test case. Developers will all be watching to see how much it costs to game the city council.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 11:54 am

Wrong. This is not a game. It is where we live and amenitied for the neighborhood and the public.

It may be a game to developers and city leadership - none of whom live in the locale, but to those of us in Palo Alto, we are sick and tired of this game.

Who wants to have to drive past this ugliness every day? Who wants to have to give visitors arriving from 101 directions that pass this ugliness?

We need our leaders to serve the residents, not play games!

Get it done, already.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2013 at 8:19 am

A fine, a small to discuss replacement of the building that was torn down. Just get the shopping center built using a more Eichler design style, how hard can it be. Post and Beam, with glass and paneled walls.

It is not St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel that is being built.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:57 am

I shopped at Edgewood starting in 1967 when it was almost new. Even then, it was clear that the center was not considered attractive, and there were relatively few shoppers. I would have preferred other stores in the area but the Lucky was inexpensive and that was my most important issue at that time.

People never shopped there. Because of this, stores left, and it was hard to get new stores. The owners saw little reason to make even modest improvements. Deterioration continued.

After watching this for years, my conclusion is that the original design was poor. There were many bad "strip malls" built during the 1950's, it was a bad period for retail architecture.

Curators of our architectural history would do well that a building can have a "history" but not be worthy of preservation or restoration.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

To JM:

You make some good points. Unfortunately, pursuing this line will greatly delay completion of the project, and to what good end? More lawsuits, arguments, and a project sitting half-complete for years.

Apart from questions of process, do you really think that the building in question was worth preserving?

In most communities, a failed 1950's shopping center like this one would simply have been demolished a long time ago and replaced with something more. With lower costs to the developer obtained from a more expeditious process, the developer might have been able to do a better job.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The of dealing with run down shopping centers, strip malls and old tired malls. Empty buildings don't produce sales tax or much in the way of property tax. One day Stanford Mall will have to be improved to bring in more stores and upgraded.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JM
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Resident: " Wrong. This is not a game."

Indeed it is not to those of us who live here. I wrote,

"Developers will be watching to see how much it costs to game the city council."

Having sat through many Planning and Transport Commission meetings and a few City Council meetings regarding land use I have watched this happen. I did not write the city council was playing games.

To Robert Smith: "Do you really think the building was worth preserving."

My second sentence clearly stated,

"I have no doubt at all this building should have been torn down."

My first sentence was, "Yes, go ahead with the project."

"More lawsuits, arguments, and a project sitting half-complete for years."

Only if the developer wants to delay the project. Can you tell me why the developer should profit from this deliberately illegal action? They new exactly what they were doing.

And can you give me a reason why every developer from now on won't realize that a precedent that has been set? You don't think they are smart enough?"



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm

It certainly looks like a game to me, though maybe not in the conventional sense. It is a game of one up man ship, crying wolf, gaming the system and a real life boardgame played with real life game pieces.

There may not be a winner, but we, the residents are the losers. The longer the game goes on, the more we lose.

JM doesn't like this being called a game, but we are pawns in a game where we have no trump cards, no playing pieces and no get out of jail free card. We, the Palo Alto public, are being held to ransom where the ransom is the ability to use a local amenity for its designed purpose, neighborhood shopping.

Stop the childish nonsense, get it done already.


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