Housing would replace AAA building on Forest Avenue

Architectural panel voices measured support for two-building development at 430 Forest Ave.

A squat office building on a leafy Forest Avenue block would make way for two multi-story residential buildings under a proposal currently making its way through Palo Alto's approval process.

The plan calls for demolishing the 6,720-square-foot building at 430 Forest Ave. that currently houses AAA and to replace it with two buildings: a two-story building with two townhouses and a three-story building with 10 apartments and a penthouse. The two-story home would be occupied by the two partners in the development, said Prabhas Kejriwal, one of the partners.

In his presentation to the Architectural Review Board on Thursday, Kejriwal said the applicant team has a "long-term perspective" about the project, which "led us to doing the best possible design we can with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind."

He noted the development's "net-zero" features, which include enough solar panels to not only power the units but to also fuel the electric-vehicle charging stations. Irrigation needs will be met with gray water, and the plumbing system is also designed to allow toilets to be flushed with greywater, should the city's code allow this in the future.

David Solnick, the project architect, said the new development's design and building heights would be consistent and compatible with the area around it. He said he and his team have "consciously not mimicked the lovely and historic architecture of the Downing House."

The Architectural Review Board had mostly positive things to say about the buildings' Midcentury Modern design and general layout. At the same time, board members said they had some concerns about traffic circulation, particularly the proposed driveway into the new housing complex. It requested that the applicants return at a later date with more information and minor revisions. The hearing will resume on Sept. 27.

Most members generally shared the sentiments of Vice Chair Alexander Lew, who said the project is "heading in the right direction" but "is not there yet."

Board member Wynne Furth called it a "fairly lovely project" while Kyu Kim praised it for offering more density than currently exists.

Even so, Kim said he had some "safety concerns" about the cars going up and down the driveway into the new buildings.

"It seems to me that if you have three- and four-bedroom units in the back of the townhouse, there might be a bit of traffic going back and forth," Kim said.

Furth also had some concerns about a request made by the developers for a "design enhancement exemption" to allow for a greater encroachment into the side yard than the zoning code would normally allow. The three-foot encroachment would accommodate proposed patio trellises, which he said are intended to "soften the building's edges."

Furth didn't entirely buy that, saying, "I tend to think that if the trellises are needed, the code requires that you pull the building back and not encroach."

Related content:

New development on Forest Avenue to include 13 housing units

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35 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2015 at 10:45 am

Where does AAA plan to move? This is a very convenient location to stop by and use their services. I hope they won't move too far away.

24 people like this
Posted by services
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2015 at 11:28 am

Here again taking commercial services out for more housing. Where are these people going to fit. Do we know if this is being re-zoned. We need to keep affordable services in dtn pa. Very frustrating. I agree with the other person, love having a aaa office dtn pa

26 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm

I agree with the two other commenters. I often use the downtown AAA office. Losing all of our convenient services to housing and offices is making a dent in living here.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 16, 2015 at 12:43 pm

AAA moved my account to Miramonte/Mountain View many years ago.

10 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Seriously, 1, 2 and 3? Is it too much commercial downtown and not enough housing or the other way around? Or is it less of both and more apple orchards? Good luck with that one! More whining on the Daily blog. Too funny!

23 people like this
Posted by becoming LA
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Yes! Because what I really need, as a longtime resident, is fewer services and more congestion. And less water - as the new residents place new demand on an already inadequate supply. Once again, clear thinking by the PA planning department.

14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2015 at 4:38 pm

"Seriously, 1, 2 and 3? Is it too much commercial downtown and not enough housing or the other way around?"

They are correct. Downtown has megatons of office space, but it is largely used for industrial purposes like software manufacturing. Services for residents, such as this AAA, are disappearing fast.

I know, I live downtown.

20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Another cheap quality flat roofed building going up in PA. This town is getting ugly.

7 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2015 at 6:34 pm

It may help to know that AAA was the owner of the building and chose to sell, not a tenant that was forced to move out.

9 people like this
Posted by res
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2015 at 7:21 pm

In the meantime, this town becomes increasingly hostile to the disabled. Did anyone see the news story about disabled elderly people stuck in high rises in SF and unable to get out? "Accessibility" isn't the same as equal access. A more livable city for residents, it turns out, is more compatible with universal design for the disabled, something at least as important in our comp plan as "affordable" housing but totally ignored because the Build Baby Build forces find it more convenient to use the "affordable" housing advocates for their purposes (nevermind it never really produces affordable housing, just more rapid gentrification).

Like this comment
Posted by Maria
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2015 at 8:43 pm

does anybody know where AAA is going to move?

16 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Frankly, I'm geting VERY sick of the policies of this city. The ONLY reason we stay is capital gains tax, and if that were every removed on the property of those over sixty-five, you'd see an exodus from Palo Alto that would rival that of the Hebrews from Egypt. Why live here any more??There would be a lot of housing available. Mr DeLeon, are you listening?

8 people like this
Posted by Mary Grimes
a resident of University South
on Jul 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm

>> It may help to know that AAA was the owner of the building and chose to sell, not a tenant that was forced to move out.

Please help me understand how it helps to know that.

15 people like this
Posted by CM
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2015 at 11:45 pm

All of these giant office and residential buildings going up are the direct result of past city councils who increased zoning density and floor area ratio (FAR) plus have allowed a slew of ways to add density. The current council has a few "residentialists" but they are still outnumbered by the past crew and some that presented themselves incorrectly during the past election. It may be too late for the livability of Palo Alto, but any change will take another election of more "residentialists" and that isn't until 2016. In the mean time we could try for another referendum to stop any density exemptions, or even to return zoning to a previous time. Or we could demand that the pro-growth city manager, Jim Keene and his staff be fired and that a more residential friendly, slow growth manager be hired. That will take residents putting a lot of pressure on the pro-growth part of the city council to get them to take action. The true residential council members will most likely be glad to see him go as would most residents who care about the long term livability of this city rather than the ultra growth vision that he and his minions propose.

10 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2015 at 11:51 pm

@Mary Grimes: It's the whining again about selling the Buena Vista trailer park and forcing them to leave town - yawn. When people cannot afford to live in Palo Alto, they leave the city and don't ask the city to help them to stay in Palo Alto, as the Buena Vista residents tried to do.

The traffic in this city has gotten out of control. I thought the City Council promised to curb growth! Our schools are already busting at the seams. We cannot have anymore growth!

16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:03 am

I'd echo Bill's points. Mr. DeLeon is not only listening, but he and the city tax collectors and the developers are laughing all the way to the bank. You sell your house with its low tax basis. The city gets a huge bump in new and future tax revenues. Mr. Deleon et al and the builders, planners, construction truck drivers, etc. etc. thrive.

There's another branch of AA at 900 Miramonte, Mountain View. Of course you have to travel to get there -- creating more congestion, using energy and wasting your own time.

But, hey, it's only an hour round trip. If you avoid rush hour.

Also we'll'have to go to a real DMV office for those services AA provides. Fun, fun.

Think of it as a Happy Place to enter on PA's new Happiness Map. brought to us by the community outreach staff and pr consultants. Absurd.

8 people like this
Posted by jui
a resident of University South
on Jul 17, 2015 at 1:49 am

Housing for who? Status quo developers and their rich friends? A few blocks from City Hall? How strategic. Just like the bunch next door that forced non-profits and small business out while they moved their hot-shot construction buddies in. "Lovely"? Boxes and cubes crammed and stacked on top of each other. Meh, with a capital M. That building has "The Man" and faceless corporate interest written all over it. Let me just say one thing, working downtown and earning the national median annual income, I have hopes and dreams, too. I'd like to plant my little garden. What about a tiny house project in Palo Alto? Finally, what kind of community are we building when those that actually create something of social value cannot even afford to live here. Not one that I care to live in. Other than the net zero features, this project is not "headed in the right direction".

7 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 17, 2015 at 11:34 am

@ Palo Alto Native

"I thought the City Council promised to curb growth!"

If you look at the council member's votes you will see which recently elected or reelected candidates live up to their campaign pronouncements. I would say watch the council discussion prior to the vote except that can be misleading as one of those members tends to vocally argue for public consumption one way and then tends to quietly vote the other way. Since council member Dubois has had to excuse himself from some of the critical discussions and vote this has lead to a stalemate.

4 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:41 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

CSAA would be a very nice ground floor neighbor to have.
If you (the city developers) must, build Residential units OVER low key customer-service businesses like AAA.

Where are all these people, that need housing, coming from? Have you seen all the Housing units being built in Mountain View? Hundreds of apartments under construction just along major roads.

3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm

"Where are all these people, that need housing, coming from?"

Hmmm, I've heard a rumor that there may be a company or two around there that are hiring...

2 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm

If 90% (just a guess) of the new construction is mid-century modern, how will Palo Alto maintain its charm?? Are there any upcoming Spanish, Mission, Victorian (or other non-modern) projects coming up? If not, why not?

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

Because the ARB shoots those designs down. Case in point would be the project that will go up on the corner of University and Cowper. The original design reflected the architecture found at Stanford. ARB told them to go more modern or go home.

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

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