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Publication Date: Friday, February 28, 2003
DEVELOPMENT

Hyatt Rickey's final EIR sets stage for showdown Hyatt Rickey's final EIR sets stage for showdown (February 28, 2003)

Proposal for hotel property has riled its neighbors

by Don Kazak

The release of the Hyatt Rickey's final Environmental Impact Report this week highlights the core of a dispute that has raged since the late '90s -- whether or not the proposed hotel and apartment complex is simply too large for the surrounding neighborhood to accommodate.

It is a battle that will be played out at City Council and planning commission meetings over the next few months, as the city holds public hearings on the topic.

On one side are residents who contend the developers haven't listened to their concerns. For his part, project developer Mark Solit said plans are progressing nicely.

Emotions are running so high that Barron Park resident Bob Moss has threatened a referendum on the matter, even though the project is legally exempt from such a challenge.

"I'm going to kill it," Barron Park resident Bob Moss said of the proposal, if it is adopted by the City Council in its current form. "I don't know if there is any chance the city will approve it, but if they do I will lead the effort to overturn it."

The Hyatt proposal calls for tearing down the present 344-room hotel, located at El Camino Real and Charleston Road, and replacing it with a 320-room hotel and 302-unit apartment complex.

Opponents of the proposal say the project would be out of scale with the adjacent residential neighborhood, generate more traffic, and cause parking to spillover onto residential streets behind the property.

But Hyatt developer Mark Solit said a new hotel is necessary because the current facility is aging and run-down. Hyatt officials said the project would generate $2 million in annual city tax revenues, provide $700,000 in fees to the Palo Alto Unified School District, and add badly-needed housing along a transit corridor, which is one of the city's goals.

Solit noted that environmental groups and housing advocates, along with business interests, back the Hyatt proposal. "In the next few months, we look forward to continuing to work with the city and community to shape a final project in which we can all take pride," Solit said.

Opponents of the Hyatt proposal generally prefer that a new hotel be allowed, but with far fewer housing units.

The nearby neighborhood group, Charleston Meadows Association, sent in a 46-page letter last year raising questions about the EIR.

"The project is incompatible in height and footprint with the adjacent neighborhoods," Deborah Ju, president of the group, wrote in a letter to the city last year when the EIR was being reviewed.

Betty Epstein, a board member for the association, wrote a guest opinion published in the Weekly last November that stated the Hyatt proposal should have fewer housing units, perhaps 120.

"The problem is that instead of working with its neighbors and the city to produce a workable project, Hyatt is using its well-lined coffers to try to ram through a project that is grossly excessive," Epstein wrote.

But Solit said Hyatt has been listening to its neighbors. "We are very encouraged by the positive progress towards resolution of issues raised by the various groups participating," Solit said.

While not taking official stands, representatives of other neighborhood associations, including Barron Park and Midtown, also voiced objections to the Hyatt plan last year.

Don Kazak can be e-mailed at dkazak@paweekly.com


 

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