News

Four-story building approved for Shady Lane site in Palo Alto

Plan for 429 University Ave. draws criticism for height, mass

In the latest sign of downtown Palo Alto's sizzling office boom, the city approved on Thursday a proposal to build a four-story building at a prominent University Avenue location currently occupied by the popular boutique shop Shady Lane and other stores.

The city's Architectural Review Board voted 4-0, with Catherine Ballantyne absent, to approve a mixed-use development proposed by Hayes Group Architects for 429 University Ave., at the corner of Kipling Street. The plan calls for a demolition of two existing one-story buildings (425 and 429 University) and replacing them with a single building that would have roughly three times the density of the existing ones.

The 31,407-square-foot development would include retail on the ground floor, office space on the second floor, and three residential units on the third. There would be an additional residential unit on the fourth floor, along with commercial space and a rooftop terrace.

The development does not seek a zone change and will not be reviewed by the City Council unless someone files an appeal.

The board's vote came despite a mixed reception from the public, with many downtown residents arguing that the new building is too massive, doesn't provide enough parking and would clash with architecture on Kipling Street, where there are numerous Victorian buildings.

Marion Odell, who lives at Cowper Street and Everett Avenue, argued in a letter to the city that the project is "too massive" for Kipling, which is narrow, and that the additional traffic will cause congestion.

Andres Mediavilla, a resident of Palo Alto Avenue, wrote that the tall building would create a canyon on Kipling, "making this beautiful street look like an unwelcoming city alley."

Not everyone felt this way. Several residents and downtown employees, including numerous real-estate agents, argued that the building designed by Ken Hayes Architects is exactly what's needed to add vitality downtown. Beverly Fields, a commercial property manager, praised Hayes for bringing diversity to downtown with buildings that are "modern, sleek, simple and beautiful."

The Thursday hearing was the third time since November that the architectural panel has taken up the project. The design for the development has gradually changed based on board comments, with the recent modifications including clear glass for the ground-floor storefront; second- and third-floor balconies set further back from the street; and transparent railings along the alley on Kipling. And while the board had some concerns about the project's density and proposed landscaping, members agreed that the application warrants approval.

Board member Kyu Kim said the review process has improved the design, such that it is now "a great building." While Mayor Karen Holman has talked extensively about the need to improve the city's architectural-review process, Board Chair Randy Popp argued on Thursday morning that the evolution of the building's design is proof the reviews are working.

"I think it's important for people to understand how this process has worked, in particular on this building, which does seem to be particularly polarizing," Popp said.

Popp and board member Alexander Lew both acknowledged the public's concerns about the project's density and its potential impact on traffic and parking. The applicant, Elizabeth Wong, has relied on a program known as "transferable development rights" to increase the building's commercial component by 9,207 square feet. The program allows density bonuses and parking exemptions to be purchased from developers who are rehabilitating historic buildings elsewhere. In this case, the project is also relying on the TDR program to get a reduction of 20 parking spots.

This exemption, as well as the developer's payment of "in-lieu fees" for parking, change the requirement from 92 parking spaces to 35. The applicant has agreed to provide 40 parking spots in the building's underground garage.

Lew said that because the board doesn't get to see which historical projects are being restored and selling these bonuses, it's hard to judge whether the trade-off is fair.

"I think the (time) seems ripe for a community discussion about a larger picture of how that ordinance has been working," Lew said.

Comments

19 people like this
Posted by jason
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 20, 2015 at 10:51 am

"Several residents and downtown employees, including numerous real-estate agents, argued that the building designed by Ken Hayes Architects is exactly what's needed to add vitality downtown."

Here we go again with the words "vitality" and "vibrant". Enough already! I thought the city council was going to slow down office development?


16 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Stop! It is Underparked by 52 parking places.


12 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Feb 21, 2015 at 4:40 am

Horrible and I thought it couldn't get any worse. An architectural review board actually approved this thing? Wow, they must have really given this one the time of day. It's so... brutal. Greedy. Looks like a prison or a bunker. That's it, I'm never going down University, again. I just want to remember it as the charming, magical place it once was long ago and far away.


16 people like this
Posted by rubber-stamped
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

This is absolutely awful in every respect. It completely overwhelms
the streetscapes,both University and Kipling, adds to the parking deficits, has no design relationship to its surroundings, etc. I thought that the bonuses and parking exemptions were no longer operative, or is this being grandfathered in? This project continues the long line of current projects like 611 Cowper under construction,which show why we need a downzoning in commercial areas as a starting point. Palo Alto has made a joke out of land use control and design review. There is none.


14 people like this
Posted by how ironic
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

How ironic that the ARB member who was critical of this development, was just pushed off the board.


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Another under-parked atrocity.

I agree with How Ironic.

Let's have another "How I Love Palo Alto" pr effort while the destruction continues.


12 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Though my opinion doesn't count in any way in this decision, I have to say...I dislike this design. I also don't approve of under-parked commercial or residential developments.


8 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 3:15 pm

jason,
This approval was by the ARB, not the City Council, and this ARB is stacked with some pretty extreme development proponents with very little relevant experience.

Does it go to City Council for approval, or would it require an appeal by residents?


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I believe you can thank the outgoing City Council for rushing through the appointments to the ARB.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong.


1 person likes this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Actually if you read the story, this building is overpacked ( yes, there are ways to get around parking requirements, but the developer played by the rules). This will be a plus for downtown. Too many old and ugly looking buildings in Palo Alto.


12 people like this
Posted by Yuckola
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2015 at 7:22 pm

As a resident, I am ashamed of Ken Hayes and his hideous, cheesy monstrosities. This one is a great big malignancy in the downtown area.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Talented architects cost money. Hayes works cheap.


9 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm

> This will be a plus for downtown.

In your dreams!

This is one of those projects that needs to be opposed by everyone--even if it has to go to ballot.


5 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Insufficient parking should result in an insufficient permit. Shave off a floor and I'll bet additional parking will be found. Shave off a floor anyways, 4 floors will set the tone for the block and soon enough Univ Ave will be a canyon of office space. Lovely. These developer giveaways must stop. What part about parking problems does city hall not get?


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

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