News

Yelp to move into planned College Terrace Centre

Review-website firm, already renting in Palo Alto, to occupy new 38,000-square-foot space

Palo Alto's College Terrace Centre development has secured at least one tenant in review website Yelp, according to a Yelp spokeswoman.

The San Francisco-based company has reportedly agreed to lease approximately 38,000 square feet of office space at the mixed-use development at 2180 El Camino Real -- a major upgrade from the company's existing Palo Alto offices at 490 S. California Ave.

The company plans to tap into the local labor pool for both sales hires and engineering talent that may not be able to make the commute to San Francisco, Rachel Walker, Yelp spokeswoman, said in an email.

"We're excited to be expanding Yelp's presence in Palo Alto in a brand new building that will give our employees convenient access to public transportation, local retail and small businesses," said John Lieu, Yelp head of facilities. "Palo Alto and the larger South Bay region is an ideal location to source new additional talent."

No building permits will be issued for the project until the Palo Alto City Council signs off on a new tenant for the planned 8,000-square-foot grocery store, which is being developed by Twenty-One Hundred Ventures LLC. The council agreed in August that it didn't have enough information to determine whether the grocer, J&A Family Market, would be comparable in quality to JJ&F Market, the grocer that operated on the corner of College Avenue and El Camino Real for more than six decades before it was sold to a new operator in 2010 and closed for good in 2013.

The council in August criticized the project team for failing to disclose pertinent information to the city. Though developer Patrick Smailey submitted the lease agreement to the city, key information was redacted, including rent amount, the security deposit and the number of parking spaces allotted to the grocery store. Council members questioned whether James Smailey, Patrick Smailey's son, was the right person to run the new grocery store because he has no prior experience in the grocery industry and declined to provide to the city the names of key advisers who would help him operate the store.

An independent consultant for the city, Sutti Associates, reviewed Smailey's business plan, and its president, Lawrence Brucia, wrote in an Aug. 4 report that while his company "cannot guarantee long term success for J&A Family market," it believes that the market "has the retail team and strategy to be successful from its opening day and into the future."

The council is expected to take up the issue again in the coming weeks.

In addition to the office space and grocery store, the Palo Alto development will include 5,580 square feet of other retail space and eight below-market-rate apartments.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:41 am

This is fine. However, let's keep our eyes focused here. The key thing is for the developer to come up with a viable grocer that will be acceptable to Palo Alto City Council. That was the explicit quid pro quo in exchange for the City Council to agree to re-zone this block for a big huge building.

Let's not get distracted.


5 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:50 am

This will be an interesting experiment in parking space physics.

Will the tenants actually have enough parking or will the retail customers, office tenants and their visitors spill out into the neighborhoods?

Quality of the College Terrace neighborhood is protected with a long-standing residential permit parking program. If the density of YELP workers and other tenants exceeds the on-site parking supply, then those workers have no choice but to spill across El Camino Real into South Gate and Evergreen Park neighborhoods.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:58 am

This office building is a short bike ride from the Caltrain station. Hopefully the city will install more bike share stations in that area. The existing California Ave bike share station is probably the worst used station in the system because there are so few nearby stations.


5 people like this
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:32 am

So, does the City have any rules about how many heads you can have per sq feet of office space.

These days, with open plans, and eager 20 year olds willing to work on the floor [portion removed], what kind of density are we really talking about?


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

@heads per sq feet of office space

I doubt it, though I'm quite glad we haven't gotten to the point where neighborhood groups start trying to micro-manage every business decision for every company in town.


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

1) Whatever happened to Micki's Market? Weren't they supposed to go into this site where they would have a much better chance of success than the inaccessible one on Alma?

2) Let's hope there's adequate parking for both the grocer and Yelp otherwise this grocer's doomed to fail, too.

3) Yelp is rich enough to provide its employees with bikes. And it's close enough from the train station to El Camino that they can easily walk it.

4) Cal Ave is already so short of parking that we can never go there for lunch and this will make it even tougher to visit the small retailers or restaurants.


3 people like this
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Robert,

"I'm quite glad we haven't gotten to the point where neighborhood groups start trying to micro-manage every business decision for every company in town."

Well, if you are a resident, you can be sure that you have micro-management of your space. Not by the neighborhood groups, but by the City of Palo Alto. From the distance your toilet seat has to be from your bathtub, to how much water you can use.

Regulating the amount of bodies in town is useful not only to appropriately handle traffic problems but also disaster response.

This town was originally populated by venture capital firms, the odd inventors - low density type knowledge workers, not the factory workers for each and every company that was envisioned here. That's what Houston is for.

Now that we have the factories too, they should be regulated.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Looks like Yelp thinks (do they have reasons?) that the building is the done deal...


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:17 pm

@heads per sq feet of office space

If that's the case, I should think that all decisions regulating the number of "bodies in town", everything from renting out a room, to having a guest over, to having a child, needs to go through city hall. Or is this sort of regulation to be directed at Yelp and others who aren't really *true* Palo Alto residents?


Like this comment
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Robert,

"Or is this sort of regulation to be directed at Yelp and others who aren't really *true* Palo Alto residents?"

On the contrary - when you have common rules, it makes everyone a "true" resident.


4 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:32 pm

@ resident of mid-town

"This office building is a short bike ride from the Caltrain station. Hopefully the city will install more bike share stations in that area."

And exactly how many of these employees do you suppose live near a train station that makes this a practical way to come to work, don't need to drop off and pick up children from childcare, stop by the grocery store on the way home, etc. etc.?


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:41 pm

@heads per sq feet of office space

Oh please do go on, what kind of permitting process or city rules did you have to satisfy before you were allowed to live in Palo Alto? These "common rules" apply to everyone equally, correct?


6 people like this
Posted by Vanessa Warheit
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I agree that College Terrace and California Avenue need more bike stations! I was just in NYC - which used to be a congested, polluted mess - and RODE A BIKE, safely, with no incident. It was fabulous. We can definitely do at least as well here.

We also need way better transit (Bus Rapid Transit along El Camino) and more regular, bike-friendly, electrified CalTrains. Density is not the problem - the problem is making sure everyone doesn't drive in a single-occupant vehicle. Greater density like the Yelp occupancy actually offers our city and neighborhood more options for improving congestion, air quality, and quality of life.


Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2014 at 1:06 pm

"Yelp is rich enough to provide its employees with bikes. And it's close enough from the train station to El Camino that they can easily walk it."

Come on. There are 8 "affordable" dwelling units in the building. Isn't "affordable" housing supposed to enable/entice workers to live here? What better place can there be to live than right in the same building as your sweatshop? With a grocery store to boot. Surely these units will be filled with Yelp geeks.


1 person likes this
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Robert,

You're conveniently making this some story about "living" in Palo Alto.

It's not. It's a matter of city management, and good measures can serve just as well to accommodate more density.

We will never know if the arguments get twisted.

I say you conveniently make this story up because the status quo would benefit those who prefer the city to not pay attention to anything.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I'm not talking about "living" in Palo Alto, I'm responding to your original comment about heads per square feet, i.e. regulating the number of people who should simply be allowed to exist in Palo Alto, before "traffic problems" and "disaster response" come into play, issues you want to foist on supposed newcomers, yet which you yourself conveniently never had to deal with.


3 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I second Vanessa's point that more transportation options are important! Palo Alto is blessed with great weather and TWO downtown areas, University Ave and Cal Ave, that were established before automobiles, and are naturally easy to walk and bike around.

Locating a business near the train station is the first great start to encouraging people to use different modes of transport. A stronger bike infrastructure (safer bike boulevards and lanes) and network of bike share could help. And what about ride sharing options (Ride Pal and other private shuttles) or car sharing?

Yes it's a reality that some people need to drive, but does anyone really like being stuck behind the wheel in traffic? Looking ahead a little bit, demographic trends suggest more and more people would prefer not driving, especially if other options become more convenient. I took the train for years and loved having the time to relax or to work, instead of clenching my fists on a steering wheel. Is it so bad to wish for a near future where more and more people can come to work near Cal Ave/College Terrace without having to drive?


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm

This article is about Yelp. Or is it about the new grocery store?

As for Yelp coming to Palo Alto, it makes no difference who the company might be, we are still attracting more companies to open offices here. Presumably people will complain about traffic and parking, but unless some real progress is made on public transportation, nothing will happen.

For someone to use public transportation it must benefit them in some way over driving. If they can use any form of public transit as a faster or cheaper alternative to driving and parking they will. Work places that have "free parking" have a perk over those that do not. If they can tax employees who get free lunch at work (as the media has reported is being discussed), then should "free parking" be another taxable perk? It is worth thinking about.

Here is a CNN article about Silicon Valley's free lunches and the IRS wanting to tax them. Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Sweatshop?!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm

How high must one sit on their horse to call a 3 gourmet meal a day, 100k+ office job a "sweatshop"??


1 person likes this
Posted by Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 2:16 pm

> The key thing is for the developer to come up with a viable grocer
> that will be acceptable to Palo Alto City Council.

And just what kind of grocer would that be? One that goes out of business within the first year of its existence--as we saw how the blessing of the Palo Alto City Council sat on Miki's head?

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Robert,

"I'm responding to your original comment about heads per square feet, i.e. regulating the number of people who should simply be allowed to exist in Palo Alto, before "traffic problems" and "disaster response" come into play, issues you want to foist on supposed newcomers, yet which you yourself conveniently never had to deal with."

I'm not a legion, I don't walk in a six pack, and I didn't exactly inherit my residence here. It comes at a price and responsibility.

I may have jumped to rules too soon. I'd take the step back to having data, and consideration of sustainable practices for everyone to co-exist. How many heads per sq feet are we talking about?


1 person likes this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 29, 2014 at 3:21 pm

But what about the grocery store?

Under the terms of changing the zoned allowance for the size of the property from approximately 12,000 square feet of office space to 38,000 square feet, the construction permit is conditional on either a signed lease with the owner(s) of JJ&F, or an experienced grocer providing a similar grocery store.

A condition proposed by the developer, Mr. Patrick Smailey, himself in order to get council to approve his request for the zoning change and increase in office space.

After using JJ&F as the bait, and with their enforced silence, JJ&F were forced out. An outcome of a non-disclosure clause signed by the owners of JJ&F to settle an earlier lawsuit which subjected them to the possibility of eviction. (Before Mr. Smailey realized JJ&F was his ticket to the zoning change.)

Now the switch. Mr. Smailey proposes his son sign the lease as the grocery store tenant and has requested the construction permit for work proceed.

At the council meeting to discuss the proposed lease with his son, a builder with no grocery store experience, the council were rightly concerned not only did this not meet the terms of their approval of the zoning change, but also about future conflict of interest.

His lawyer cleverly deflected the question by telling the council the father’s role as "developer" would “go away” once construction is completed. Cleverly deflecting the question and concealing that the father is also the owner’s property manager who will be responsible for enforcing the lease against his son. A definite ongoing conflict of interest after construction is completed.

As Mr. Smailey pursued the zone change he could be forgiven for thinking that whatever he proposed and agreed to as a public benefit would not be enforced by the city after the fact. Previously public benefits have never been enforced. Now the council proposes to begin doing so Mr. Smailey is caught in his own net. The 8,000 square foot full service grocery store proposed and agreed to as a condition for the zoning change is simply not viable in todays market. Quite obvious at the time.

The last I heard the developer and property owners are threatening to sue the city.


5 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2014 at 3:21 pm

@ Robert - it is rational and good policy to regulate the number of workers in the city when ABAG turns around and dictates how many homes must be built in the city based on the number of workers. It also makes sense when we see a continuing worsening of traffic problems.


6 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm

@ heads per sq feet of office space

"with open plans, and eager 20 year olds willing to work on the floor with their stuffed animals, what kind of density are we really talking about?"

For decades Palo Alto has allocated office space at 250 square foot per worker. This has come up over and over, but the planning staff, city manager, and council, have resisted recommending changing the formula because that would affect the number of parking spaces developers are required to provide. Easy to see who has influence in this town. And it isn't the people who live in Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2014 at 5:39 pm

mj,

"For decades Palo Alto has allocated office space at 250 square foot per worker. This has come up over and over, but the planning staff, city manager, and council, have resisted recommending changing the formula because that would affect the number of parking spaces developers are required to provide. Easy to see who has influence in this town. And it isn't the people who live in Palo Alto."

Ouch and ouch.

I'm sure residents will be asked to pay for unaffordable housing and parking for the new workers based on the numbers of actual bodies, not the 250 square ft per worker.

Instead of a ticker with the national debt, Palo Alto City Hall should have a ticker with the amount of office space going up every minute, and we can do the Math about the real number.


1 person likes this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm

YELP must have an easy out clause should the required grocery condition not be met. Being a CT resident I have to extend a huge thank you to those in the neighborhood who led the charge to get the RPPP in place a few years ago b/c that will provide meaningful protection for those who live closest to the CT Centre (no sic - the developer really does spell the word that way!). How the parking/transit issues play out here will be a meaningful test of the Pedestrian Transit Oriented Development theory that City Staff has used to justify under-parking projects around town. This location should work well for train riders and those who bike/train. Time will tell.


1 person likes this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2014 at 2:10 am

Between the lines methinks the developer just has a lot of hot air threatening the City with a lawsuit if it has to jump the gun and line up a tenant *before* a building permit is issued. Why hasn't the City declared the grocery idea dead since the developer told it he'd been "pounding the pavement" for months to find a single warm body willing to say publically, "Yep! I can do a profitable grocery store there!"

Please, City Council, make the developer build without PUC perks or restart the dialog with College Terrace residents to determime what they are willing to have as a public benefit instead of a grocery store. A failed and closed up grocery store and a building without enough parking is not it. Maybe ask the bike shops across the street what their ideas are for that city block! They probaly know how to design a building to encourage more bicycling.


Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2014 at 3:29 am

Great news!
Great location!
Smart company!
Let us innovate!

Respectfully!


3 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

Just to add some real world perspective... when Facebook moved into the old HP building at Cal Ave. and Amherst St, Facebook crammed 900+ employees into a space that held 200+ HP employees.

Facebook's standard workspace was four employees sitting at a 30" x 60" table with a power and internet drop in the middle. The way these "social media" companies cram employees in, makes a cube farm look luxurious.


2 people like this
Posted by heads per sq feet of office space
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Ahem,

"Just to add some real world perspective... when Facebook moved into the old HP building at Cal Ave. and Amherst St, Facebook crammed 900+ employees into a space that held 200+ HP employees."
'
That kind of perspective is lost on the wide eyed city staff and city council stuck on anything that sounds like averting becoming Detroit! The absolutely worst part is the guilt trip pulled that Palo Alto for supposedly not being welcoming enough, or Robert's lines about those who live here, vs the do nots.

There is an assumption that everyone who lives in PA is Zuckerberg - who by the way donates his money to actual needy cases, not people who are at least rich on paper. Even if we had willing billionaires, they will not be the ones paying for the true costs of traffic, decaying infrastructure, crowded schools or for more unaffordable housing. Those bills and bonds will be spread evenly and the billionaires will pay as much as fixed income me. Billionaires haven't stepped up to save Buena Vista, what makes us think they are signing up to pay for what's ahead.

And no, developers are not the right partners to "help" pay for this because they are too busy getting city hall to gift them zoning and perks to stay. They want us on the cheap. When developers are getting their way everything is negotiable, and when they don't it's a lawsuit.


1 person likes this
Posted by cormudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Still Hungry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2014 at 9:16 pm

The current proposal is self-dealing; the city should never reward bullies.


Like this comment
Posted by Jimmy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I second Sea-Seelam Reddy

Great news! Great location! Smart company! It's ALL good. The traffic impact on CT will be minimal. Let Darwin & economics take care of the grocer being good... they'll figure it out (and, by the way, the bar is frankly not that high compared to JJ&F IMHO). LOOK at that building?!?!?! It's beautiful. Everyone PLEASE sit back and chill. It's going to be OK.


Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 2, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Please, just build the damn grocery store already, any grocery store will do.


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

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