New development on Forest Avenue to include 13 housing units

Residents raise concerns about impact, increased density

A proposal to redevelop a 0.52 acre lot in downtown Palo Alto is currently percolating, with the 13 new residential units at 430 Forest Ave. to replace the current AAA office building.

The property which was purchased in March 2013 by developer Prabhas Kejriwal and a partner is already zoned for high-density housing (RM40), and the proposed buildings designed by Palo Alto architect David Solnick would need no exceptions for that zoning. However, some residents from surrounding lots raised concerns about the impact of the increased density.

The planned development, modern in appearance, would include two buildings: one three-story building in front with five two-bedroom units on the first two floors and a penthouse unit on the third floor; and a duplex in back offering two two-story units with attached garages. Parking for the other units would be located below grade.

Kejriwal is not new to building and development, and he shepherded a few single-family projects in Palo Alto years ago, as well as a multi-family project in Mountain View in 2007. An electrical engineer by profession, Kerjiwal also pushed this project to incorporate sustainable design elements, aiming to make the buildings "net zero" for energy usage and qualify for a LEED Platinum award.

The project appeared for its initial review before the city's Architectural Review Board (ARB) at its Nov. 6 meeting last year. Architect David Solnick, who is a former ARB member himself, gave the presentation, expressing his excitement about pursuing the project.

"I've always been a strong proponent of dense downtowns," Solnick said, "and have had the good luck to do a number of houses here, including some houses and some small multi-family projects in the downtown, both for clients and on my own."

But neighbors directly behind the project on Homer Avenue were not equally enthused, voicing concerns with how taller building just beyond their fence would affect the light, privacy and quality of living they thought they were getting when they purchased property there.

Palo Alto resident Mike Egbert told the ARB that, as configured, the project would seriously affect the amount of natural light his residence gets, and that occupants of the duplex on the back of the property would be looking directly down into his life from their balcony.

"The concept of density is a great idea if you're a developer, but I'd continue to hate to see downtown Palo Alto turn into an anthill, with people on top of each other," Egbert said.

In their comments, members of the Architectural Review Board responded to these concerns. Former board member Clare Malone Pritchard asked Solnick if the balcony could be reconfigured. She also suggested Solnick prepare visual examples of what the development would look like from the neighbors' property.

However, with the exception of Robert Gooyer, who disliked the project's layout and design, most board members at the time were in favor of the project and thought it compatible with the surrounding area, despite there being a few historic properties in the vicinity.

Solnick thanked the board for their comments and suggestions and said that they would definitely be looking into the issues raised.

Kejriwal told the Weekly that he hopes for the formal review before the ARB to take place in April, and if all goes as planned, to start construction mid-year.

Yvonne Jernigan, branch manager at the Palo Alto AAA office, declined to comment about the development or when or where the AAA operation there might be moving.

Editorial Assistant Sam Sciolla can be emailed at

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8 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2015 at 11:03 am

Any residential unit should have two off street parking places assigned to it. Otherwise one ends up with lots of overnight parking on the streets. Most people own one car per driver. You can go on and on about bikes, buses and alternative transportation modes but the reality is is one car per driver.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2015 at 11:28 am

Where did you get the information on the parking?

10 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

Have the developers got their RPPs in hand? Streets in that area are totally parked up day and night now.

22 people like this
Posted by awesome!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:27 pm

So terrific to see new housing being added to Palo Alto! And this project has a nice mix of smaller and larger units, which can attract people looking to spend more and less. This is our downtown. It's SUPPOSED to be dense. That's the whole point of a "downtown." There's no point in having a train station if you're not going to build your housing close enough for people to be able to use it. This area already has a few multifamily complexes that are actually quite lovely, especially the one by Heritage Park. If they do this project well, it will be a great addition to the neighborhood and it will drive more customers to our retail sector, which means the rest of us get better and more varied retail. Kudos!

8 people like this
Posted by Laura
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:37 pm

It's good to see more modern units being put in that support a modern lifestyle.

11 people like this
Posted by Steve Downing
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Glad to see more housing being built downtown. This'll let more people live near work and reduce traffic.

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm

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8 people like this
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Isn't it lovely that someone from Menlo Park is commenting on a more modern lifestyle. They just had elections where development / urbanization in Menlo Park was a major issue. Let's hope that Menlo Park is buying into a more modern lifestyle and not arguing over urbanization at the ballot box.

Every time I see PA commented on by other local cities I get the feeling that they are trying to push the people in our direction so that they can maintain their more peaceful environment to themselves.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2015 at 1:32 pm

[Post removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 1:42 pm

This feels right. This project would put people close to services and transit. It addresses our jobs-housing imbalance by replacing a business with a residential property, and fits within our existing zoning codes. This is the kind of development that we Palo Alto residents should get behind!

7 people like this
Posted by schools?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Where will the children go to school who might be living here? They're already packed. and Dear Palo Alto, stop trying to make room for EVERYONE! We're already so crowded. Everyone doesn't have to live here. Leave some green and trees. Pretty soon we're going to have to change our name because it won't have any meaning.

11 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Glad it's not blotting out the sun in my backyard.

12 people like this
Posted by Live Nearby
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Sounds good to me. We need more housing and this is near services and transit. First time I remember an office building being replaced by housing and housing for rent is needed in the area.

4 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2015 at 4:21 pm

"This'll let more people live near work and reduce traffic."

A common fallacy. In a free country like ours, people don't necessarily live where they work. Half the PA working population commutes to jobs outside Palo Alto. People commuting from Palo Alto don't reduce traffic, they increase traffic.

10 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2015 at 4:31 pm

"In a free country like ours, people don't necessarily live where they work."

Yes, but also in a free country, the burden should be on you when it comes to denying someone the ability to make that choice.

8 people like this
Posted by Live nearby
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Agree with Robert about respecting freedom to choose. Also people who live downtown have better options to commute without a car. It is a good location for housing.

13 people like this
Posted by Quercus
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2015 at 6:27 pm

The project is meeting the zoning requirements (RM40) while adding needed housing and using very green building techniques with solar. I rented one block from here and enjoy the eclectic architectural styles in downtown. Downtown zoning is much higher density, so we're just not going to see the type of homes as in south Palo Alto.

Here's a link to the proposed plans: Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by Take the money and run
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 29, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Ugly. More flat roofed, cheaply constructed, architecturally unappealing construction. Another developer screwing Palo Alto.

25 people like this
Posted by Livie nearby
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2015 at 6:58 pm

I have an idea. Everyone who complains about building design should post a picture of where they live. Then we all get to vote and if deemed ugly their home is torn down. Sounds fair to me.

5 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Downtown is too congested. No more density please!

4 people like this
Posted by Larry
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2015 at 7:02 pm

More ugly housing....

11 people like this
Posted by Live nearby
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2015 at 7:24 pm

Hey Larry,

Shoot us a pic of your place so we can vote on whether to demolish it.

2 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Jan 30, 2015 at 5:06 am

I live in a Category ll historic structure constructed in 1927 about one block from that location. There is still the remnants of an old Crank phone on the tiny foyer wall, to my delight. Those were the days when an architect knew how to design lovely buildings for people to live, there is a kind of grace and civility about this old apartment building with bay and arched gothic windows and entryways, the elegant stairway and pretty chandeliers. The original garden feature was quite lovely and generous before developers completely demolished it, ivy and all. This was a sad occasion because the ivy and garden spoke of the passage of time as does many older buildings and homes in Palo Alto. I think historic preservation is important in downtown locations and especially in towns that have significant historic presence in architecture.

Where is the human spirit, imagination and creativity in the design for 430 Forest Ave; and, at least, some learned respect for Palo Alto's history? It looks more institutional and burdensome than residential, more ego and money than heartfelt love of ones craft or community.

8 people like this
Posted by Live nearby
a resident of University South
on Jan 30, 2015 at 6:46 am


If building I think you live in, yes very charming, warm feeling.

Also much more than 50 feet tall and I believe (you can correct me) quite under parked though maybe not by standards of 1927.

Are you for removing the 50 foot limit and parking requirements for housing if buildings are beautiful?

We have a lot of beautiful buildings downtown thatvalsomarecmore than 50 feet tall and without much if any parking.

I would love to see more beauty in architecture although beauty is in eye of beholder, but also recognize there are trade offs with current rules and high land costs.

Like this comment
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Jan 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Live Nearby comment. The building originally contained garages on the first floor, although this is no longer the case, after completion in the early 20th century. It was designed by an Austro-Hungarian architect whose career began in San Francisco in about 1907. I've seen examples of his work in the Tenderloin District of that fair city.

I think scale and balance is important in reconfiguring urban design and height concerns are a consideration here. Palo Alto is predominantly a suburban environment and one would expect to see sky and trees, nature for their views, other than buildings or signage. However, if that were not my option, I would prefer the view of a building designed by an early 20th century architect than one of today. I think most architecture post second World War is way off the mark, visually aggressive, speculative and ego driven. I think they have had a very negative affect on civic life, in general.

I am car-free and prefer bicycle and pedestrian friendly localized communities.

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

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