News

Palo Alto council open to new Marriott hotels

City officials deem San Antonio Road site suitable for two new hotels

It's still a long way from the finish line, but a proposal to build two Marriott hotels on the southern edge of Palo Alto got off to a promising start on Monday night when City Council members indicated that they like the idea — at least in principle.

It's the details, however, that may delay and potentially doom the project.

In their first discussion of the hotels proposed for 744-48 San Antonio Road, council members generally agreed that the 2-acre site between Middlefield and Charleston roads could be a suitable location for a new hotel or two.

At the same time, council members emphasized that the developer would have to demonstrate that the 297-room complex would not worsen the traffic conditions on the already congested San Antonio Road. They also stressed that the new hotels — AC Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott — would have to be redesigned to be more compatible with the context of the surrounding neighborhood — a tall order for two five-story buildings in an eclectic area marked by one- and two-story office buildings, residential complexes and light industrial uses.

In its "prescreening" discussion Monday, the council did not take any votes on the proposal by T2 Hospitality, which includes two hotels totaling 297 rooms between them — one targeting the hip, cosmopolitan traveler and the other focusing on the business class. The project would also include 353 underground parking spaces and an internal courtyard separating the two buildings.

Mont Williamson, president and chief operating officer of T2 Hospitality, said the company chose this location for the new hotels because it wants to serve the employees in the commercial North Bayshore Road area in Mountain View. That, he said, is where the greatest demand exists for hotel guests.

"If you look at the supply of hotel units that are in Palo Alto, they are all along El Camino Real and north on 101," Williamson said. "There are no hotels within two miles of the North Bayshore area. Our thought is putting the hotel in this location is to provide hotels room close to where the demand was and prevent them from having to drive all the way through Palo Alto, where the current supply of hotels exists."

He noted that the hotel will meet all zoning rules and that the project is not requesting any variances or design exceptions. The project would pump about $3.5 million into the city coffers annually in hotel-tax revenues, he said. Williamson also argued that the traffic impacts would be minimal and that his company would be wiling to install signals that would actually improve the flow of traffic.

Neighbors, however, have yet to be convinced. Warren Storkman was one of several area residents to testify about the already frustrating traffic conditions. The two hotels would not help, he and others argued. The project is great, he said, for "some other place."

"The traffic at San Antonio, I don't care what time of day it is, it's bumper to bumper," Storkman said. "It's cars in mass array."

Joan Beit-Zuri also argued that two hotels are completely out of scale with the surrounding area. The two hotels, "with only a single access in the middle of an already congested San Antonio Road are simply not compatible with our neighborhood," Beit-Zuri said.

The city's Architectural Review Board reached a similar conclusion during its initial review of the project in June. Board members generally agreed that the proposed hotels are too massive for the area and encouraged the applicant to revise the design to create a better fit. Noting the scale of the proposed development, board Chair Robert Gooyer said it "will be a sore thumb to the people around it."

Getting the board to endorse the design will be one of T2's biggest challenges if it moves ahead with the proposal. Councilman Greg Scharff specified that he wants to see the board's endorsement before he supports it. But assuming T2 gets the board's blessing and the traffic analysis shows little to no traffic impacts, Scharff said he would support the new Marriot hotels.

"We, as a council, have repeated over and over again that you have to meet code," Scharff said. "This project fully and completely meets code. It would be a little disingenuous to tell people that if you completely comply with all our codes ... we still would not approve your project."

The council's slow-growth "residentialists," who typically take skeptical stances on new developments, took an open-minded view toward the Marriott hotels. Councilman Eric Filseth agreed with Scharff and said he found the applicant's explanation for why this location was chosen "compelling."

"I think this is a reasonable location for a hotel, given the area it's intended to serve," Filseth said. "My inclination is, if the project meets code and follows the zoning, we shouldn't stand in its way."

Mayor Karen Holman concurred, saying that a "hotel would be a good use of this site." Yet she also highlighted the many issues that are yet to be analyzed — issues that will ultimately make or break the project.

These include traffic, impacts on historic structures and compatibility. A building in this location with four or five stories "straight up" does not respect the context whatsoever, Holman said. Rather, it creates "canyons and a wall of buildings," exactly the kind of situation the council is trying to avoid.

"It's not what we want to see here," Holman said. "It's not an attractive addition. The context and transition I think are really important at this site and all sites."

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid also urged the applicant to "break up the massing." Yet Schmid, who like Holman and Filseth typically favors slow-growth policies, also argued that the placement of the hotel near North Bayshore "is a positive element."

"That is going through quite a dynamic business development and this would provide lodging at a convenient and accessible place," Schmid said.

But Councilman Cory Wolbach was more skeptical about Williamson's argument about the dearth of hotels in the area. The only reason why the slide showed no hotels within two miles of site, Wolbach observed, is because the developer centered the two-mile zone at the intersection of Shoreline Boulevard and U.S. Highway 101. A different two-mile circle, centered around San Antonio and 101, would capture several Palo Alto hotels, said Wolbach. Furthermore, the developer did not factor Mountain View hotels in the area, Wolbach said.

The developer, he said, should change this slide to "increase the attentiveness of the council and the credibility of presentation."

Even with the council's tepid and conditional support, the project faces numerous uncertainties. The design issue remains a high hurdle, particularly after the City Council voted last month to demand revisions in a mixed-use development proposed for 429 University Ave. Though the building met all the city regulations regarding height, density and setbacks, council members said the project failed to meet the "subjective" code that pertains to compatibility and context.

Another challenge is keeping the Marriott brands. Williamson said that according to the existing agreement, "We have to have the project approved by the end of 2015 or we lose the brands." T2, he noted, is nowhere close to that. But with the council's positive feedback at hand, the company hopes to "renegotiate with brands and get additional time to get the project approved."

Councilman Marc Berman suggested that this additional time may prove to be extensive.

"This is Palo Alto and and things don't happen super fast here," he said. "I hope there is some patience on the applicant's part as well."

Comments

25 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 8, 2015 at 10:58 am

Well, I live right across the street from where these hotels are supposed to be.
I'm not against having hotels there, but it absolutely will make the traffic much worse, and it's pretty awful right now on San Antonio Rd, especially at certain times of the day. That problem needs to be addressed.

The bigger issue is the size of the buildings, of course. They are considering building 5 story hotels- and there is nothing like that at all here. 5 stories is inappropriate for the fitting into this area - perhaps 2 or 3 stories at most. Any more will just big big and ugly.

Lastly, the worst problem will be parking. Many residents park on the streets as it is, and the number of spots proposed will most likely not be enough for the hotel visitors. Where will all these cars get parked at night?


5 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 8, 2015 at 10:58 am

Well, I live right across the street from where these hotels are supposed to be.
I'm not against having hotels there, but it absolutely will make the traffic much worse, and it's pretty awful right now on San Antonio Rd, especially at certain times of the day. That problem needs to be addressed.

The bigger issue is the size of the buildings, of course. They are considering building 5 story hotels- and there is nothing like that at all here. 5 stories is inappropriate for the fitting into this area - perhaps 2 or 3 stories at most. Any more will just big big and ugly.

Lastly, the worst problem will be parking. Many residents park on the streets as it is, and the number of spots proposed will most likely not be enough for the hotel visitors. Where will all these cars get parked at night?


31 people like this
Posted by Ralph Cahn
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:13 am

To think that these 5 story hotels with their 2-level,water-draining underground garages would have "little or no impact" on already jammed San Antonio traffic is a joke. To get to them from east bayshore, would-be hotel guests will have to head west on San Antonio through the light at Charleston, one at Leghorn to the one at Middlefield where they'll make a U-and head back east on San Antonio. As the hotel is claimed to primarily serve east bayshore tech firm visitors and temporary workers, they'll "commute" morning and evening -- the very times traffic is already at its very worst! Two hundred plus owner families living in the communities immediately across the street at 777 and 765 San Antonio will be especially impacted. Many of us think this confirms their long-held belief that south Palo Alto is an unthought of "dumping ground" ignored by City leadership past and present.


27 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:24 am

Oh goody. More people. More traffic. Brilliant.


25 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

Traffic is already a mess, particularly northbound between Alma and Charleston. But it seems fixable if the city could improve light timings, and increase some of the dedicated turn lanes. If a developer wants to put in a hotel, they should have to contribute to the improvements needed to the traffic to which they would be contributing.


21 people like this
Posted by jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm

"the developer would have to demonstrate that the 297-room complex would not worsen the traffic conditions"

There is absolutely no way to demonstrate in advance that these hotels would not worsen traffic conditions.

When a council member says this it is encouraging the developer to come up with a plan that sounds good on paper so council members will feel good about approving it.

After these hotels are built the additional traffic will be a fait accompli since the council is hardly likely to shut them down after the hotels are up and running.

Just like the representatives of companies surveys demonstrating that half their employees take alternative transport when there is no way to guarantee that the employees of the next company to occupy the building will do so.




31 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm

"the developer would have to demonstrate that the 297-room complex would not worsen the traffic conditions"

No sweat. The developers only need to apply the successful Page Mill Road argument: traffic is impossible now; therefore our project will have no perceptible impact. Works every time.


16 people like this
Posted by Lucas Ramirez
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

"If you look at the supply of hotel units that are in Palo Alto, they are all along El Camino Real and north on 101," Williamson said. "There are no hotels within two miles of the North Bayshore area."

Mr. Williamson failed to mention that there are no fewer than 4 hotel proposals in the pipeline in Mountain View. One, not far from this proposal, is in construction in the San Antonio Center, part of the Merlone Geier Phase 2 project. One will be in North Bayshore itself, right off of Shoreline. There is a proposal for a hotel in downtown Mountain View. There's another planned in the "Moffett Gateway" site, which is bounded by 101, 85, and Moffett Blvd.


44 people like this
Posted by Yuck
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2015 at 2:15 pm

It is simply too butt-ugly and poorly placed on a narrow, overcrowded, traffic-jammed road.

That s/b enough reason right there to put the idea back in the can.


16 people like this
Posted by Wary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Are there going to be low-income set-aside rooms for all the low-wage, hard-working families who need affordable housing in this town? I was under the (false) impression that housing for the poor was a Council priority - especially with the Beuna Vista debacle in full swing and 400 residents having to possibly move on short notice.

Or, are the hotels to only supply rooms for the high paying transient workers coming in from International locations for stints at Nasa, Google, E-Bay, Apple...

Liz


1 person likes this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 4:33 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Mmmm-kayy
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Curious why there has not been consideration for a hotel on the east side of 101. Housing does not work there for families because there are no schools but senior housing and hotels could work.


14 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2015 at 8:57 pm

"Just like the representatives of companies surveys demonstrating that half their employees take alternative transport when there is no way to guarantee that the employees of the next company to occupy the building will do so."

There is is no way to guarantee that the employees of the first, or any, company to occupy the building will do so. Such agreements are feelgood shams of solving the traffic problems (wink, wink). The fact is the city has no intention to enforce them, and it adamantly never will.


12 people like this
Posted by Onlooker
a resident of University South
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:52 pm

"Such agreements are feelgood shams of solving the traffic problems (wink, wink). The fact is the city has no intention to enforce them, and it adamantly never will."

Which is ironic, because Stanford, Menlo Park, Redwood City, and Mountain View all have such agreements and enforce them strictly. (Well, actually the County enforces Stanford's.) Companies in North Bayshore will face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if too many of their employees drive and lose the rights to the new development the city just gave them. As a result, the other companies there have joined Google in running shuttles for their workers.

I'd much rather the city get serious about enforcing rules about cars than give up on ways to limit cars from new developments altogether. At least we could be as good about this as our neighbors.


18 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

How can any city possibly know how many employees drive to work every day and enforce a limit? Under-parked buildings simply displace the cars to nearby neighborhoods with a nice brisk stroll to work, and who's to know whether they took the train or bus.

Stanford makes it so expensive to park in the campus that many employees simply park along El Camino or in the neighborhoods nearby, and enjoy a nice stroll to pick up the convenient shuttles. In college terrace we even had regular parkers on my street with bikes either on the back of their cars or left chained to trees!


14 people like this
Posted by Noel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Silicon Valley is becoming more urban. We can face up to this a build needed infrastructure suchas these hotels, or we can rant and rave and hope it will all magically go away. We are living in the center of one of the most powerful wealth creation areas of the planet. The orange orchards are long gone and our way of life will continue to be impacted by rapid change.


13 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 9, 2015 at 11:30 pm

On a recent basement dewatering thread I was provided a link to a groundwater depth contour map. Looks like this construction will begin gushing at 6 feet.


15 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

"Silicon Valley is becoming more urban. We can face up to this a build needed infrastructure suchas these hotels, or we can rant and rave and hope it will all magically go away. We are living in the center of one of the most powerful wealth creation areas of the planet. The orange orchards are long gone and our way of life will continue to be impacted by rapid change."

Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Atherton, La Honda, even Menlo Park, are not impressed, and neither should Palo Alto be.


18 people like this
Posted by Disgusted!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm

I would like the City Council Members to drive down San Antonio Road -- any time of the day, and then still tell me this is a good idea!

What do these people have in place of brains? Drooling for more income for Palo Alto from Hotel Taxes is unbecoming

South Palo Atlo has lost its bowling alley. Public meeting venues such as Ricky's Hyatt restaurant and others are gone, replaced by condos or closed off hotels that do not welcome neighbors. It's a shame that the city council members do not see themselves as public servants, in office to promote the well being and recreational activities for its citizens!

No Marriot Hotels on San Antonio!!! We are shouting it as loudly and clearly as we can!!! I hope city officials will get the message. Sincerely, Disgusted, Outraged, and Mad as H___


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Posted by Noel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Silicon Valley is becoming more urban. We can face up to this a build needed infrastructure suchas these hotels, or we can rant and rave and hope it will all magically go away. We are living in the center of one of the most powerful wealth creation areas of the planet. The orange orchards are long gone and our way of life will continue to be impacted by rapid change.

++++++++

Spoken like a true non-native...

We never had orange orchards here. Apricots, plums, almonds, walnuts, pears and cherries. Mostly apricots and plums towards this end of the county.


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

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