More than 25 seniors and disabled residents have launched a petition against a new color scheme at their apartment building, which they said is causing them to be depressed.
The 57-unit Sheridan Apartments at 360 Sheridan Ave. in Palo Alto is in the process of being repainted and upgraded with new flooring, rugs, television cable, ADA-accessible doors, Wi-Fi and other amenities. But residents said the dark and light gray, plum, dark green and dark blue color scheme is giving them the blues, and many are too frail to go outside to escape from it.
Representatives of the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, which operates the affordable-housing complex, said they hired an interior designer and held a public meeting to offer two color palettes for the residents to choose from. Thirty of the 60 or so residents attended the November meeting, and the majority chose the colors now in use, housing corporation officials said. The other palette consisted primarily of brick/red and cream.
It's too late to change the color scheme -- tens of thousands of dollars have already been expended -- but the housing corporation is compromising by lightening walls in patio areas and adding a rug to the community living area after residents complained, Executive Director Candice Gonzalez said. They are also urging patience, since the renovation is not yet complete.
But some residents are still concerned about the overall impact the dark, cool-palette colors will have on them in the long term.
"People need joy. They need to have a good impression. Our building is like a prison. It's like a place for soldiers. In my apartment, everything is OK. I have flowers, and the walls are white. But I step out on the balcony and everything changes," said Marya Khazan, a resident since 1999.
Khazan said the colors make her feel sad when she comes out of her apartment.
"What color do you have at your house? I never saw a door dark green. Most people here are old and not healthy," she said.
The building's exterior is still tan, which goes with the color scheme of the surrounding structures, but the balconies now form dark gray columns along the building's facade. Residents said when they step out to the balcony, they are confronted by a wall of dark, depressing nothingness. One resident said she cried when she stepped outside.
Georgina Mascarenhas, director of property management, and Gonzalez said they have heard the concerns and are having the building wall that leads to the patio repainted the same light color of the building exterior.
One local interior designer unaffiliated with the housing complex said that the shades chosen are "in" colors -- like them or not.
"The trend is in taupes and maroon and gray," said Rise Krag, a board member of the American Society of Interior Designers North California. "They are mostly pretty bad."
Krag recently asked the International Color Board for interior designers, which meets every two years, how the colors are trending.
"I asked how much longer we'll be dealing with gray, and (one specialist) said she thinks it's on its way out," she said.
The darker color scheme can be seen in other parts of the city, including on some residences. Krag said that could reflect a more industrialized, urban view, especially among younger people who consider it more chic. Blue and gray are very sophisticated colors but are cooler, she said. The darker trend is especially popular on the East Coast. In the West, there's still a leaning for more saturated, warmer and lighter colors.
Krag said she can see why the seniors might find the Sheridan colors depressing.
"My father was a gerontologist. Gray is not a great color for the older population. They often have eye-color issues. The cornea is older, and they can't differentiate like they used to. They like to see more contrast, to see the doorways and the floor. Gray is really dismal," she said.
Many seniors also become color blind, and red and green become gray, so brighter contrasting colors are better than colors within the same hue that are harder to differentiate, she said.
Chris Gaither, a former Sheridan manager who lives in the neighborhood, said the new outside colors don't fit with the neighborhood's lighter tan color scheme. Knowing many of the residents, he said he understands their concerns.
"They aren't complaining just to complain. These are senior folks. It about how it's making them feel," he said.
However, Alexander Radoport, a resident and an artist, is ambivalent about the changes.
"Sometimes gray is fine for a building; sometimes it is possible," he said.
Joe Villareal, a resident since 1979, said residents' artwork used to hang on the hallway walls, which are now barren, adding to the feeling of desolation. But Mascarenhas said that artwork will be coming to perk things up.
Villareal, who drafted the petition at the request of other residents, sent it to the housing corporation on May 3. The residents received a response on May 5. In the letter, Mascarenhas said the housing corporation was disappointed to learn of the negative response so late in the process.
"We do understand that it is almost impossible to make every person happy when it comes to choices like paint colors," the letter stated.
But unfortunately, all of the paint, which cost in excess of $60,000 -- excluding the cost to repaint the balcony walls -- has been purchased and is nonrefundable, and some of the painting is already completed, she said.
"As a nonprofit with a limited budget, we cannot afford the expense of starting over. After all of the painting is done, we think that it will all come together and have a fresh look. We hope that you will give it a chance," she wrote.
Mascarenhas said in her letter that "a few" residents refused to allow the painters access to the patios in order to complete their work. "Please be advised that this is a violation of your lease agreement."
Villareal said that since receiving the letter, many residents are now reluctant to come forward.
"They say it's over and there's nothing that can be done, which I think is worse. It says we're defeated," he said.