Stalled development may spur another lawsuit

Developer Harold Hohbach considers suing city over proposal for condos, research space on Page Mill Road

A developer whose long and litigious quest to build a three-story building on Page Mill Road suffered a major setback earlier this month is now considering filing another lawsuit against the city, according to a letter he submitted to the City Council.

Harold Hohbach of the firm Hohbach Realty Company tried to get the city's approval on Oct. 3 for a mixed-use building including more than 50,000 square feet of space on the ground floor and 84 condominiums on the second and third floors. His plan was delayed, however, when the City Council criticized the project's design and directed him to return with a new application and a request for a different zoning designation.

Hohbach, who has sued the city in the past over the project, wrote in a letter that his company is "very disappointed" in the council's decision to require the company to "undergo a complete redesign for its Project under the PTOD (pedestrian and transit oriented district) when it has expected approval of the mixed use Project submitted." He is asking the City Council to reconsider its decision.

The council's rejection of Hohbach's later proposal is the latest hiccup in his 11-year journey to develop the property at 195 Page Mill Road, near Park Boulevard. The council approved the project in 2006, but the approval had subsequently expired. A group of citizens, led by land-use watchdog Bob Moss, has also sued Hohbach over the project, significantly delaying Hohbach's proposal.

Moss has repeatedly argued that the proposed building doesn't include sufficient safeguards to protect residents from a toxic plume under the site.

The 89-year-old developer had also launched his own suit against the city, arguing that officials are essentially waiting for him to die. At the Oct. 3 meeting, he alluded to his age and said he looks forward to finally getting the project built.

Hohbach's attorney, James Janz, wrote a separate letter to the council arguing that the council's decision was illegal and that Hohbach was entitled, by California law, to an approval. He noted that the city's staff had recommended approving the project.

"Despite the support of the Department of Planning and Community Environment, and staff recommendation for approval, the Council got involved in side issues relating to items such as parking and even the actual design," Janz wrote.

He later added that it is his firm's opinion that the council's decision to request a zone change for the project was "illegal and in violation of Government Code 65915," which entitles developers to density bonuses under certain conditions.

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Like this comment
Posted by HP pollution
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Why don't both groups just sue HP to clean up the toxic waste spill?

Like this comment
Posted by T Tierney
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Poor Harold! If he had only made his building follow zoning when he first proposed it, he would have tenants by now.

Like this comment
Posted by Its a monster building
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Hohbach own lots of property in that neighborhood, and heads his own law firm so suing is no problem for him.
Palo Alto doesn't need or want 84 more residences. And it's against the law for the city to approve so many units, it is against the comprehensive plan which is like our constitution.

Like this comment
Posted by long timer
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Hohbach sued the City decades ago too.
He lost that suit which involved his demand to add several more stories to his office building on the corner of Birch and Sheridan.
Truly a repeat offender and litigator.

Like this comment
Posted by Build it!
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

And the rat-infested "Moss Mess" continues to live on, unabated. I have lived in a number of high-end municipalities, like Palo Alto. Regarding the goal of getting things built, I have never seen dysfunction like this!

Holback was *approved* by a prior City Council. What a joke. This delay has really cost Califrnia Avenue merchants, and Palo Alto's tax base. Pathetic.

btw, I'm not defending Holbach. He's an aggressive developer, but his designs and projects are not really that far off-center.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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