News

Jay Paul scales back its development plans for California Avenue in Palo Alto

Company withdraws one of its two research-and-development proposals on Park Boulevard

After more than a year of commission reviews and design revisions, Jay Paul Company has withdrawn the application for one of its two proposed research-and-development projects in the bustling area near the California Avenue Caltrain station.

The San Francisco-based developer informed the city of its decision to withdraw the application for 3045 Park Blvd. in a letter last month. The project was one of four "pipeline" projects that the City Council agreed to give preference to in evaluating which developments should be allowed to proceed under the city's new cap on office space.

The office cap -- which applies to downtown, the area around California Avenue and El Camino Real -- limits construction of new office and research-and-development projects to 50,000 square feet a year total in those three areas. Because Jay Paul has been going through the approval process for both 3045 Park and 2747 Park since October 2014, the council agreed last year that these two projects should be placed at the head of the line.

The 29,120-square-foot development proposed for 3047 Park would have taken up more than a half of the cap total. Now that the application is withdrawn, Jay Paul is focusing on getting approval for 2747 Park, a 47-foot-tall, three-story building that would also be used for research and development and that would replace an existing single-story building between Page Mill Road and Sheridan Avenue.

Ray Paul, executive vice president of Jay Paul Company, wrote in a letter to the city that it is "crucially important to us that this action (the withdrawal of the application for 3045 Park Blvd.) not derail our application to develop 2747 Park Blvd. in 2016.

"Consequently our withdrawal of 3045 Park Boulevard is conditioned on the City's ability to keeping this project on track for approval in 2016," Paul wrote.

The withdrawal of 3045 Park has already had one significant effect on the city's approval process for 2747 Park. First of all, it reduces the number of projects competing for approval under the new cap. In addition, it allows Jay Paul to avoid performing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) -- a detailed analysis of the two projects' impacts on things like traffic, noise and the natural environment. Whereas before, Jay Paul planned to order the analysis for the two developments, now staff is limiting its environmental review to what's known as a "mitigated negative declaration" -- a less stringent analysis. The document was released last week and the public comment period on the document will remain open until Feb. 29.

According to the traffic analysis for the 2747 Park, the project would result in about 541 new vehicle trips daily, including 75 in the peak morning hours and 110 in the peak evening hours. Though the "level of service" at the intersections around the project would remain unchanged, the new development would add 1.3 seconds to the time it takes to cross the chronically congested intersection of Page Mill and El Camino Real during the morning commute. The intersection currently functions at service level "E" in the morning and at level "D" in the evening ("F" is the lowest possible score). When the analysis takes into consideration other area developments that have been approved but not yet constructed, the level of service drops to "F" in the morning and to "E" in the evening.

To address the congestion, Jay Paul would be required to help the city pay for a new traffic signal at the intersection of Park and Page Mill Road. The environmental analysis also recommends that Jay Paul install signs at the corner of Sheridan and Page Mill directing pedestrians to use Park and California Avenue to access the Caltrain station. Another recommendation is that Jay Paul install "yield to bicycles" signs along Park.

Meanwhile, Jay Paul's decision to pull back its plans for 3045 Park represents yet anther change for the centrally located site. In 2013, Jay Paul proposed using this site to help construct Palo Alto's new public-safety building, which would be attached to a large public garage. In exchange, the company requested approval of a massive office development next to the AOL headquarters at 395 Page Mill. The project, which would have brought 311,000 square feet of commercial development to the already congested area, was summarily panned by the council and ultimately withdrawn by Jay Paul.

With the withdrawal of 3045 Park, the development projects subject to the ordinance this year "may total just slightly more than 50,000 square feet," according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. The new ordinance evaluates the projects that are going through the city's approval process as of March 31 and creates a competition between developments based on traffic impacts, design quality, environmental impacts and value to the community.

The proposed scorecard, which the council is set to review on Feb. 8, also gives a slight preference to mixed-use projects that include housing, retail and cultural amenities such as art galleries and studios. The council will also review on Feb. 8 the proposed administrative guidelines for the new office cap, which is set to remain in place for either two years or until the adoption of the city's updated Comprehensive Plan.

Even without the office cap, Jay Paul's proposal for 2747 Park still has several hurdles to clear before it wins the city's approval. Last month, the city's Architectural Review Board discussed and generally lauded the proposed design for the new building. At the same time, board member Peter Baltay expressed concerns that the new development is effectively an office building going up in a zone that was intended for light-industrial use. He said he would not be able to support a finding showing that the project complies with the city's zoning policies -- a requirement of the board's approval (the board did not take any votes on the project at that meeting).

"This is a speculative office building, and I think it's a fairly handsome one as it's coming along," Baltay said. "I don't necessarily disagree with that use, but I don't think it's for us to ignore (the requirement for zoning compliance)."

Comments

39 people like this
Posted by Hallelujah
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 5, 2016 at 8:23 am

Thank heaven! Maybe there IS a God!!!


12 people like this
Posted by Council Watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 10:50 am

More evidence that the office cap was a overreaction to a trend that may not materialize. How much does this reduce the "looming pipeline" that Council was so worried about?

In the meantime, the Council still has done nothing to deal with the traffic we already have. Preventing people from building office buildings in the future doesn't do anything to address today's traffic issues. If companies just react to higher prices by putting more people in existing buildings, it won't do anything to address future traffic issues, either.

How about the Council shift its laser-like focus on reducing the number of jobs and focus on reducing traffic instead?


24 people like this
Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 5, 2016 at 11:06 am

As a daily bike commuter who travels on Park Blvd. I am very concerned about the increase in traffic along this heavily-used "Bike Boulevard".

The newly constructed 100,000 SF Park Plaza will generate lots of traffic on already congested Park Blvd, and cyclists and pedestrians will need more safety measures than a few signs and a traffic signal.

Commuters taking Caltrain will NOT backtrack to CAL Ave. to walk to their offices on Park Blvd. They will continue to use Sheridan despite the lack of ANY sidewalks.

Better safety measures during construction and after MUST BE REQUIRED FOR THIS AREA!


18 people like this
Posted by Janet L
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 5, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Janet L is a registered user.

"Commuters taking Caltrain will NOT backtrack to CAL Ave. to walk to their offices on Park Blvd. They will continue to use Sheridan despite the lack of ANY sidewalks."

Amen. It's unbelievable that city engineers would accept people having to walk an extra 5 minutes on what's otherwise a 3 minute walk. Especially when added delays to cars are measured in seconds are seen as problematic.

Is it any surprise that people choose to drive when we continue to prioritize driving instead of making it convenient, pleasant and safe to walk, bike and take transit.


14 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 5, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Good points. And why aren't there any sidewalks on Sheridan if we are truly trying to get people to use public transportation? We must make this transportation center (Cal Ave) safe for pedestrians and cyclists. The city must not compromise on this. We can't let the Jay Paul building on Sheridan crowd up close to the street like the Alma and East Meadow project looms over the road!


7 people like this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm

The City's zoning for 2747 Park Blvd. is GM (General Manufacturing). The GM zoning classification was created decades ago (1950s?) when there was manufacturing in this country. The City's Municipal Codes states, "The GM general manufacturing district provides for light manufacturing, research and commercial service uses. Office uses are very limited in order to maintain the district as a desirable location for manufacturing uses."

The GM zoning is archaic; allowing a hodge lodge of uses including warehouses, religious institutions, service yards, animal care (including boarding and kennels), day care, general business services, mortuaries and funeral homes, ATM machines, business and trade schools. How many of the just-described uses are "Manufacturing"? Virtually none of these kinds of businesses have occupied any property on the Park Blvd. corridor for the past 30 years - further indication that the GM zoning classification is out of touch with reality. Nowadays, there is no distinction between research and development, office, technology, etc. All are uses where people sit at a computer.

Across Park Blvd. are law offices and Google (more people sitting at computers). Down Park Blvd is 50,000 sf of R&D space in Hobach's project plus Groupon (both of these users are in the GM zone) - more uses where people sit at computers.

The GM zoning is archaic and inconsistent with today's reality and should be updated. In the meantime, it's limiting language may be used against Jay Paul to stop his 2747 Park project.


24 people like this
Posted by Police Headquarters
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 5, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Could 3045 now be a site for the new police headquarters? It seems more spacious than the one across from the courthouse.


17 people like this
Posted by NIMBYS
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 6, 2016 at 9:43 am

You either grow, with smart growth on transit corridors like this, or you become Detroit. I cant wait for smug Palo Alto to actually need money in the next recession and will laugh when they lament lost revenue . The level of anti job sentiment is astounding . Jay Paul , and others , could be a real answer to traffic on Page Mill if they were engaged to do so. But no, they are shunned for have the audacity to try to create jobs. A Pox on your glass house Palo Alto --- you the town that turned down Senior Housing --- Shame !


9 people like this
Posted by Bike LOS
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 6, 2016 at 11:51 am

Maybe it's time to measure these projects against a bike/pedestrian LOS (Level of Service)? If this project negatively affects biking/walking LOS, what mitigation should be requested?


11 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

@NIMBYS

That sounds like the goal, Detroit doesn't have traffic issues or pressure to build high density housing...


3 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 6, 2016 at 1:11 pm

"The level of anti job sentiment is astounding ."

Woe is us. The're just ain't no jobs in Palo Alto.


9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm

"You either grow, with smart growth on transit corridors like this, or you become Detroit."

No doubt, just look at how horribly Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills and Atherton are doing.


6 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2016 at 1:31 pm

@mauricio

Odd, I always assumed Woodside, Portola Valley, et al were residential communities, not major regional job centers.


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Palo Alto is not a major regional job center. It's a suburban college town. Most of the companies using the Palo Alto infrastructure are Stanford Research Park companies. Palo Alto has a small town infrastructure, and squeezing in offices and start ups was a terrible decision by pro development misguided politicians who tried to make PA into what it isn't, cannot be and shouldn't be. It's true we are not as rural as Woodside, but we are closer character to Woodside than to a major regional job center. We should strive to be more like Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills and Atherton, which have some of the best quality of life and livability in the world.


7 people like this
Posted by 28 year resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 8, 2016 at 5:49 am

I've lived here for 28 years. Unfortunately, college-town PA has been sold out by a symbiosis of city government, government workers, and developers. All to the detriment of residents.

Ask yourself, in the present day boom in tax receipts, where is the money going? Is the income bonanza finishing work on Palo Alto's infrastructure? Getting them D-O-N-E and paid for after endless years of talking/studying. Is it ending the practice of siphoning off utility monies to general funds? Is there a reverse flow from the general fund to the utilities now that the general fund are flush? Is the tax bonanza being kept as reserve in view of large future liabilities promised to employee benefits?

No. Administrator compensation is up; employee unions are clamoring for more now (and even greater future benefits); utility rates are set to go way up. Etc.

Which of course sets the stage for a need for more tax income, which only a job center can provide. Thus, even more office building development, and the cycle starts again.


3 people like this
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Feb 8, 2016 at 4:38 pm

Jay Paul may be smarter than we realize. Detroit busted when its "rock solid" auto assembly jobs moved out of town. Palo Alto's software boom is way way more portable than building cars, and it will bust lots quicker.


2 people like this
Posted by Clockwise
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 10, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Yes, that's true. Stanford may one day pick up and leave Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Feb 10, 2016 at 10:39 pm

"Yes, that's true. Stanford may one day pick up and leave Palo Alto."

It's begun to do just that with its new Redwood City campus. Fair warning: Los Altos could be next.


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

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