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."