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City weighs penalties after illegal demolition at Edgewood Plaza

Original post made on Sep 26, 2013

The developer looking to renovate the long-dilapidated Edgewood Plaza in Palo Alto was supposed to preserve a historic building, not destroy it. But what's done is done, and on Wednesday night, Palo Alto's planning commissioners struggled to determine how to punish the Sand Hill Property Company for its rare and unusual transgression.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 26, 2013, 9:57 AM

Comments (39)

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Posted by No-Fan-Of-The-Planning-Commission
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:10 am

[Portion removed.] If there were to be a penalty, then there should be a schedule of fees/fines that the Planning Department, and the City Council, would have hashed out over the years.

[Portion removed.]

Perhaps the best thing to do is to suspend the developer's permits for a few months, so that he incurs a loss of revenue on the project. Fining him just puts money in the City's pocket--which will disappear in a heartbeat.


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Posted by Good riddance
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

Rather then punishing the developer, he should rewarded for ridding Palo Alto of this overrated eyesore. Obviously because of the attachment of Eichler's name to it, it is considered something historic and wonderful. Hardly the case. Good bye and good riddance.

"Perhaps the best thing to do is to suspend the developer's permits for a few months,"
Yes, lets put all the people that are working out of work in order to satisfy the whims of Eichler worshipers and historic building zealots
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Carrots & Sticks.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

This new precedent is just a gentle slap on the wrist when considered in context of what Sand Hill will gain by making this "error."--It's an incentive rather than a disincentive for future developers to follow suit.

Further, what replacement "public benefit" is the rather transparent Sand Hill "team" going to be required to deliver to the public?

I hope Council will insist on better compensation for this egregious misuse of public trust.


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Posted by Sam
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:48 am

Like the previous writer hinted at, I think San Hill deliberately tore down the "historic" building because keeping it was more or less a joke, and it was willing to swallow a fine to accomplish this. Just because the name "Eichler" is attached to something doesn't make it worthy of saving.


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

Funny how no one on the City Council sees what's happening until after it's happened. Like uprooting the beautiful trees on California Avenue. This city is starting to look really generic.


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:53 am

And by the way, "Good Riddance?" Our family owns an Eichler from the 70's,. and we also rented on from the 50's, and both homes were quite lovely and actually have needed very little work. There's a very good reason why these homes are on real estate waiting lists.


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Posted by Good Job
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thank goodness Sand Hill got rid of that junk heap. They should be rewarded not fined.


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Posted by Shameful for City and Sand Hill
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:07 am

Did the City give Sand Hill a wink and an estimate of the cost of this error in advance? We won't know, but they did give Sand Hill only a slight tap on the wrist for breaking the law. What ever works for Palo Alto is what goes. When the City installed a new water meter at our home and broke our pipe at the threads on "our side" of the meter, they fought hard not to cover the expense. Even though it was clearly their fault and cost us thousands in emergency repair and water loss, the City sent their lawyers in full force to avoid paying this expense. They probably gave each other a high-five when we chose to cover the bill rather than hire and lawyer and waste energy with a fight. Again, very Shameful City of Palo Alto! I am finding myself less and less proud to say I live in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:15 am

Agree that it was an eye-sore, but it gets tiresome when (over and over again) residents and contractors break their agreements with the city and are not punished. $94K seems small, when some guy with 7 pounds of marijuana gets three years in prison.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:16 am

This is ridiculous. The place was a mess. A total disaster. Now it is starting to look very nice. Eichler covenant 'busy-bodies" please just get out of the way and understand there are thousands - and I mean thousands of people in that retail area - who should have had a say-so in all of this. Instead they were held hostage by a few self-appointed EWP shopping center queen bees. Hopefully the shopping center will succeed.Also it could have been remodeled years ago if Frank Benest and 'city staff' who don't live here interfered. Another example of Palo Altans taking back their city.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:34 am

Kate - how did it happen that so few people were heard re the redevelopment of Edgewood? It did seem strange to only read quotes from the same people over & over again during the process. Was it a cabal of "historical" types that bullied everyone?


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:34 am

I should have said that this is another example of the need for Palo Altans to take back their city - from City Hall, the Planning Commission, the Architectural Review Board, and myopic 'neighborhood busybodies'.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:34 am

I should have said that this is another example of the need for Palo Altans to take back their city - from City Hall, the Planning Commission, the Architectural Review Board, and myopic 'neighborhood busybodies'.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

The developers just do whatever they want. Of course, they were aware of the Eichler building's requirement to remain standing. They played the odds and will probably win in the long term, money-wise. I also remember the trees of California St. and the ones lining the Alama Plaza. Those who live there were very upset and rightfully so.
Palo Alto: RIP.


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Posted by Get them
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Sep 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm

If the penalty is not a financial hardship for the developer, the City of Palo Alto and all its residents better get ready for this behavior from ALL developers who think they'll just do what they want.
The punishment should hurt and hurt a lot. If it doesn't, like I said, open season with developers doing whatever they want, paying the wrist slap fine, while pocketing the benefits of their crime. Yes, I said crime.


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Posted by sparty
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm

It was hardly legendary. And run down years ago. Did anyone from Palo Alto actually go to the old junky $1 store, or the liquor store?

The place looked more like and illegal add-on to a garage than anything that had thought put into it.


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Posted by sparty
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Amazing all this outrage over something that had a benefit.

And the cries for severe punishment. Which will do what? So far the only thing the imbecile in city govt has proven their worth at is issuing permits for nail salons.

And the residents whose liberal politics lead to light sentences for real criminals--the kind that beat you down in the street and take your money-- allow them to be out on the street again soon to do more.

Are you afraid that a "light" punishment will cause another developer to clean up this city?

Please, take a deep breath, go home, and lock your doors. I wouldn't want any of "those people" from the city next door to hard you by parking on your side of the creek.


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Posted by Adrianus
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I love the phrase " ...but the money could be spent some other way." Oh sure, another non-acountable use?


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Posted by good riddance
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Let's see, everyone is upset that this "historic" structure was torn down. However this "historic" structure was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Where were all the historic preservation/Eichler worshippers for all those years that it was decaying? All of a sudden they woke up?
Where was our city's historic czarina, Karen Holman, during this time. Was she too busy trying to usurp private property rights with her "everything is historic" plan to bother preserving this so-called historic structure, which apparently is all of a sudden so important to Palo Alto.
Eichler was a hack. His buildings are shoddy. The shopping center was a joke. Time to move on. Good riddance to the eyesore.


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Posted by Yecccchhhhh
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm

That building was butt-ugly. I lived in an Eichler for ten months when I first moved to PA. It actually rattled when the wind blew hard, due to its single-wall construction. The flat roof leaked, in spite of having been re-roofed multiple times in its history. it was cold in the winter, hot the summer, noisy always. The floor heating elements had not worked in decades, so wall heaters had to.be installed.

Why does everyone think Joe Eichler was a great architect? These houses were CHEESY! They were obviously not meant to be permanent structures, just temporary cheap housing. After renting one, I would never buy one, unless I. Could afford to bulldoze it and start over. Yeccccccchhhhhhhh!


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Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm

> Perhaps the best thing to do is to suspend the developer's permits for a few months,
> so that he incurs a loss of revenue on the project.

A few months? After the current project is done, why not ban the company from working within Palo Alto for 10 years. It isn't about the build, it should be about keeping an agreement with the city.

I few months seems too short.


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Posted by Good riddance
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm

"After the current project is done, why not ban the company from working within Palo Alto for 10 years."
I guess, Alan, you are assuming that the company would want to have anything to do with Palo Alto again, given the hell he has been put through with the PA process, the Eichler worshipers and the covenant busybodies.
I doubt you could enforce a 10 year ban--there would be a lawsuit.
But nice to see how forgiving palo alto residents are--the ones that are yelling and screaming about this never make mistakes.
Get over it--it was a piece of junk, i.e. an Eichler


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Penalties? We should give them an award for tearing down that eyesore in a timely fashion.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 4:43 pm

In their zeal to cut and paste the same things over and over whenever the word "Eichler" is mentioned, the usual posters forgot to mention that Eichlers "burn to the ground in minutes" and "were designed for low-level managers" and "were supposed to be temporary housing" and other silly and incorrect things.

But the next time a developer agrees to do something in your neighborhood, (which of course is surely filled with beautiful yet affordable homes that have a great sense of style and are solidly-built) and said developer "forgets" about it and does the opposite instead, I suppose the rest of us will be running to his defense because, after all, we know that developers have all of our needs in their hearts at all times.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

The City was negligent in not determining the condition of the
Eichler building. The City also failed to exercise design control
over the Shell station over the last 40+ years and in its recent renovation which is the worst aspect by far of the Plaza and is
a further obstacle for the developer to overcome. The rebuilt building is in the same style as the original with some enhancements.
This developer is trying to create something viable here and save
the City from its own mistakes over many years.The fine should be minimal- $10,000.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm

@Greg - the thing with this case is that they are rebuilding it anyway. I'd agree with a punishment if there was an actual loss. But what is the loss here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Good Riddance,

Sand Hill was *not* put through hell over the Edgewood development. It was actually one of the more straightforward deals I've seen in the city. SH wanted to put in more and higher homes originally. Turned out that the neighbors had a legal say in the matter. SH came back with fewer and lower town homes and everybody signed off on it.

This particular deal did *not* get bogged down in Palo Alto process and the supermarket is actual open and operational.

I do think $94,000 is too little of wrist slap. I don't care much about the building that was torn down, but I don't like the precedent.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Opar-- how long did the plaza sit empty and derelict? Too long. It took years to get this project started. And it wasn't the neighbors that had a say ( delayed the project) . It was a very small group that apparently controlled the covenant. Too bad they were not concerned about the Eichler structure that people are wringing their hands over.
$94,000 fine is $ 93,999 too much for the good deed performed by SH.


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Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm

The covenant included the homeowners of the nearby Eichlers. So, yes, the neighbors.

That the center sat around unused doesn't mean that Sand Hill was hurt by the process. Sand Hill had a deal and the deal went fairly smoothly. Sand Hill broke its agreement and the $94K is a slap on the wrist--the profits from the sale of one town home will more than cover.

Leaving the building in question would not have impoverished Sand Hill, nor would it have stopped the development--so I think your gratitude here is misplaced.


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Posted by hills
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Opar- note this story:
Web Link
The story is from 2008. That is 5 years. Meaning that plans by SH started way before that.
Note also that it was 3 neighbors that controlled the covenant and were talking about suing.
In other words SH was put through the usual PA process hell that has scared away developers and businesses from this town.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Don't transfer the abuses elsewhere in town to this site. Downtown
we have developers who try to max out sites taking advantage of
every possible loophole and leave the visual mess and parking mess
for everybody else to deal with. At Edgewood the original proposal
called for more homes but now we are down to 5 or 6 probably and the
developer brought in Fresh Market and is rebuilding the Eichler
buildings which is what was required although not originally
envisioned. Meanwhile the City does nothing to improve the appearance
of the Shell station which underwent a major renovation this year
because the staff has other priorities and doesn't see the need to get involved in this kind of thing at this gateway to Palo Alto
unlike the "Lytton Gateway". The developer is trying to make a contribution to the neighborhood working under the parameters he was given without sticking it to the rest of us.


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Posted by Nancy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2013 at 8:48 am

Eichler ushered in a new era of home/business architecture that melded gardens with room interiors, a more-open floor plan, and increased natural light in interior space. As with all great ideas, improvements are made through time and research and experimentation. I think that Sand Hill should fund a very nice, permanent display that recognizes and honors Eichler's design genius and shows examples of its impact on architectural design in the past 50-plus years.


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Posted by PA007
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 27, 2013 at 9:38 am

Sand hill is the unsung hero to the neighborhood. We alllove the new place.


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Posted by Punish the criminals
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Sand hill needs to be punished. They could have easily become the demon of the neighborhood if they thought it would make them money.
If you give them a pass now, you're telling them "No need to obey any of our city's requirements. Do what you want."
Enjoy the type city that will make. Heroes indeed. Selfish people who flaunted the law hoping to come out better in the end. Greed should not be rewarded, they need a HUUUUGE DEEEEEP fine.
C'mon PA! This is a chance to get some $ back into those coffers.
I just wish the exposed face of one of these "Developers" could be presented. That'd be great.


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Posted by Yeah yeah, yeah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Eichlers are not even safe housing|. They have been known to burn to the ground in as little as seven minutes, according to PAFD. They were designed as temporary housing for returning veterans and their families, until they could get on their feet and buy a real house or bulldoze the Eichler and rebuild with a real house.

All of the unimproved ones should be demolished as unsafe, which is what this developer did with this derelict Eichler.


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Realistically aren't @Recycle's thoughts headed the right direction? Whether you like Eichler buildings or not isn't the issue. It is what is being done to address the action in violation of the agreement.

Will there ever be any agreement by the community affected of what to do with the $94,000? Which community is most affected: history preservationists, nearby residents, ?

If SH builds a visually similar building they are trying to do what they can do to get close to the original agreement.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm

No to the Eichler altar of worship (@ Nancy). That's baloney to require a private business to do such a thing. You can put one up on your front lawn if you want - but that's your own doing, no one is making you do it.

Like it or not, the shopping center was not Eichler's best effort. As I have stated in other threads --- you cannot transfer home design elements in such a grand scale on large buildings. It just doesn't work --- and it didn't at Edgewood.

Honestly, once the replacement building is finished, will anyone know the difference? No.

Time to move on and to finish this now beautiful shopping center.


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Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm

(former resident of Edgewood Plaza neighborhood)...

I went to Edgewood Plaza meetings with S.H. for at least 2 years or more before we moved to Oregon in 2008 so this thing has been dragging on for a long time. I did not trust the guy first meeting, still don't. He's slick, I'll give him that.

He was under "orders" not to demolish and he chose to defy them and do it anyway. Now people who are probably strong "law and order" types are excusing his law-breaking which shows them to be hypocrites and, as such, not worthy of attention.

There should be penalties more than a wrist slap for such arrogant behavior. Developers already run amok in Palo Alto, and have for decades, and the quality of life and beauty of the city have suffered greatly because of it. As far as I'm concerned, they were allowed to ruin the town with ugly McMansions, high density development out to the sidewalks, and other architectural atrocities.

I have never lived in an Eichler but Joseph Eichler was an icon of Mid-Century Modern, like it or not, and how many of today's designers of Palo Alto's McMansions and high density rabbit warrens are going to go down in the history books?

If the Eichler homes are so terrible why are they not only still around but cherished by many people? A lot of people on here sure aren't shy about displaying their ignorance and nastiness. Palo Alto has truly lost its soul and its way. Fortunately, there are some places that are more like Palo Alto used to be and I'm lucky to have found one.


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