Edgewood Plaza seeks planned-community zone
Commission set to review historic Eichler commercial center Sept. 15
Plans to rebuild the historic Edgewood Plaza shopping center, developed by Joseph Eichler in the 1950s, and add 10 homes to the Palo Alto property will be reviewed Sept. 15 by the city's Planning and Transportation Commission.
As part of the plans, landowner Sand Hill Property is asked for a zoning change, to Planned Community (PC), an often-controversial designation that allows denser-than-normal development.
The plans call for a small "pocket park" on the Embarcadero Road property as a public benefit, in exchange for relaxing development standards under the PC zone.
The retail center is one of the only commercial developments in the Eichler style, according to preservationists, and contains three commercial buildings.
The property has been in disrepair and largely vacant since an Albertsons grocery store closed in August 2006. At the time, neighbors and Sand Hill Property were at odds over the number of proposed homes and what to do with the aging commercial structures, which some people felt should be preserved.
Three residents who constituted the neighborhood's official Architectural Control Committee for Tract No. 1641 — Diane Sekimura, Martin Yonke and Kim Fletcher — filed a lawsuit in 2008. In it, they stated all plans for Edgewood must receive their approval and that, under a historic agreement made by the Eichler homeowners, the retail district must remain in place.
Sand Hill and the committee reached a settlement last October that reduced the number of homes from 25 to 10 and preserves the three commercial buildings.
The property has remained largely vacant due to the economy, Sand Hill Project Manager John Tze said. The company continues to talk with potential anchor grocery stores. Considering it could be awhile before Tze gets a commitment, Sand Hill is going ahead with the planning process because everyone is expecting some progress on the project, he said.
Residents who have looked at the plans submitted to the city said there are some differences in terms of the elevation and style of the homes from what was presented to the neighborhood in November.
"A graphic ... taken directly from one of the settlement documents ... depicts the style of homes that Sand Hill Property said it intended to build. The document was incorporated into the settlement agreement because the (neighbors) wanted to be sure there was no 'bait and switch,'" Brandon Baum, attorney for the committee, said on Aug. 10.
But the homes depicted in Sand Hill's current plans are quite different, with pitched rather than flat rooflines, he noted.
"I do not know why that is, and I have not confirmed for myself that these represent Sand Hill Property's current thinking," Baum said.
Tze said on Aug. 9 that the elevations for the residences were not yet complete at the time of the settlement but are the same as those shown to residents last November.
Tze said the intent is to remain in keeping with an Eichler style. He did not elaborate on the differences between the two designs but said the designs are not final. The drawings are meant to show the intent of the development, he said.
Sekimura said Tze contacted her when questions first emerged over the differences.
"We agreed that it would be a good idea to work together as we go forward to make sure the designs are harmonious," she said.
She confirmed that current designs for the homes are not final. Many issues regarding Edgewood still must be resolved, including the park and its uses, she added.
"I'm very pleased that Mr. Tze is willing to work with us and he said he wanted to make sure we're on the same page," she said.
Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.