News

Block-long development approved for Olive Garden site

Palo Alto City Council calls for less office, more retail space in new 39,858-square-foot development on El Camino Real

The already sizzling construction climate around California Avenue is set to heat up even further after the City Council approved on Monday night a proposal to demolish the Olive Garden restaurant on El Camino Real and replace it with a mixed-use development featuring offices, condominiums and retail space.

Despite a laundry list of anxieties about the new development's mass, appearance and potential traffic impacts, the council voted 5-4 to approve a proposal for 2515-2585 El Camino Real, between Grant and Sherman avenues. Once up, the new building would roughly quadruple the amount of development at a key site just north of one of Palo Alto's busiest intersections: El Camino and Page Mill Road.

For the developer, ECRPA, LLC, the council's approval of the 39,858-square-foot mixed-use development represented a mixed victory. Though the council's vote cleared the path for ECRPA to demolish the 9,694-square-foot restaurant and construct the new building, it also ensured that the new development would have some key differences from the one that was proposed.

The most significant difference is the replacement of office space with retail. The proposal from ECRPA called for nearly 10,000 square feet of office space, including some on the ground floor of the development. The developer requested a "conditional use permit" from the city to exceed the amount of office space that the city's zoning code allows at the commercially zoned site, a tough sell at a time when the council is actively trying to moderate the pace of office development around downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real.

Instead, the council demanded that ECRPA reduce the office component and required that all ground floor in the block-long development be devoted to retail. This would limit office use to less than 1,000 square feet.

That change -- as well as a series of less dramatic conditions and modifications -- made the project just palatable enough to win approval from the bare majority of the council. Vice Mayor Greg Scharff, who led the parade of revisions, pushed for making the entire ground-floor retail space. He also proposed a condition requiring the developer to create a "robust" transportation-demand-management program, which would reduce the level of anticipated traffic by equipping the building's residents and office workers with Caltrain passes, bus passes, biking amenities and other incentives not to drive alone.

While the developer had proposed a program that would reduce anticipated traffic levels by 20 percent, Scharff pushed for 30 percent. His colleagues quickly concurred.

"I think if we combine a robust TDM (transportation-demand-management) program with ground-floor retail and with residential, this is the type of projects we have been talking about wanting as a community and therefore I think we should support it," Scharff said.

The proposed development, he said, has many elements that the council always purports to want: more housing, a mix of uses and retail on the ground floor. If the council says it wants these things and then votes against a project that delivers them, Scharff said, it would erode trust and deter developers from coming forward with the type of amenities that the council wants to encourage.

Even as the council called for a stronger transportation-demand-management program, it also maintained that the new building should provide off-street parking to all of its occupants (be "fully parked," in council parlance), a requirement meant to assuage neighborhood anxieties about parking spillover.

Mayor Pat Burt pointed out that if the transportation-demand-management measures work, the project will end up being "overparked" and the landlord could end up leasing spaces to neighboring developments (the project includes an underground garage with 108 spaces).

To address this expected overabundance of parking, Burt proposed removing four parking spaces from the surface lot and creating a landscaped public plaza. He also added a condition that up to 25 percent of the retail space should be allowed to accommodate a restaurant or a coffee shop -- uses that typically require more parking than traditional retail. The council majority adopted these changes.

Another revision entailed real-time negotiations between the council and the developer. The city code required the developer to devote 1.95 units in the 13-unit development to below-market-rate housing. ECRPA was planning to designate one unit as below-market-rate and pay the city an in-lieu fee for the remaining 0.95 units. Upon urging from Councilwoman Liz Kniss, the developer agreed to pay a fee for an entire unit. But several hours later, with the application's outcome in doubt and Councilman Cory Wolbach calling for more housing, the developer agreed to devote two units to below-market-rate housing.

Even with this catalogue of changes, the project barely got the votes it needed to advance. All four members of the council's slow-growth "residentialist" wing -- Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Karen Holman and Greg Schmid -- voted against the project, characterizing it as too massive and incompatible with the area. Filseth said that while the site offers a reasonable location for housing, the development is simply too massive.

"It's block-long and 40-foot high and there's no other building like it in this area," Filseth said.

DuBois led the charge against the development and said the biggest issue for him was "scale, mass and compatibility." He and Holman pursued a substitute motion that would have sent the project back to the drawing board and a fresh round of reviews. While Schmid questioned whether the traffic-reduction measures would actually work, Filseth and Holman worried about the precedent that the new development would set on El Camino.

"If this project gets approved, we'll set up standards so that next projects are going to be block-long buildings of the same design," Holman said.

Though Burt sympathized with some of the arguments about the building's lack of architectural compatibility, he ultimately voted in favor of the amended project and the motion by Holman and DuBois failed by a single vote.

In explaining his support, Burt observed that the project ended up with less office space that is permitted under existing zoning.

"It may not be the project that we all would design if we didn't have zoning, but we do," he said.

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Comments

32 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on May 24, 2016 at 8:42 am

Getting rid of a subpar restaurant to get more retail and more housing? This is a good deal for Palo Alto.

Strangely, I agree with all the Council members' changes - more BMR money from Wolbach, more retail/less office and strong TDM from Scharff, more plaza/less parking from Burt.

With a strong push from residents, it turns out Council can make our built environment better.


85 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2016 at 8:46 am

another blow to quality of life in Palo alto......Despite NOT meeting the legal requirements of our Municipal Code and
the legally required " findings" that need to be made for the Architectural Review Board to approve a project, the power structure on council bestowed another give away to the developer community.

These are the City council members who have betrayed the people of Palo Alto over and over again:

BURT, SCHARFF , BERMAN, KNISS and WOLBACH....

of particular note are Berman and Kniss. Berman is running for state assembly and Kniss wants another go at city council; really ? because what did these folks do for their electorate ?
they have repeatedly favored wealthy developers over regular Palo Altans.

Last night they went out of their way to manipulate and "spot craft" the zoning and laws to make sure the developers would get just what they wanted....
The price to the developer 2....yes only 2 BMR units.....a drop in the bucket of the (still expensive ) housing needed but Wolbach and Kniss jumped at it, as if it was solution to the housing issue....

.......They jumped at it despite the illegalities mentioned above; ARB findings could not be made and the project violates our own Municipal Code.

Many of the council pay lip service to "do something about the high price of housing" in palo alto while they continue to approve illegal non-confirming mega projects that pollute our streets and sidewalks and further degrade our quality of life while DRIVING up the price of housing?!

Don't vote for Berman or Kniss into any office and demand Wolbach stands up for the people who elected him!



26 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of University South
on May 24, 2016 at 8:52 am

@anon - building more housing and retail doesn't drive up the price of housing, it reduces it. It also provides more retail, which is an amenity for residents.

If you were protesting a huge office development outside zoning, I could see a reason to be angry. But this isn't that.

The Council did a good job with this one - and I don't think I've ever said that about them before...


62 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2016 at 9:08 am

the price of housing has always been expensive in Palo Alto and there is NO amount of new housing that can drive the price down.....landlords have no reason to price their rentals or sales below the market rate!

Of course as I mentioned the project approved was not legal according to our municipal code and did not meet the required finding of the Architectural review process.

The project is inconsistent with the scale and massing of the neighborhood.

The building is underparked and will contribute to the burden of unwanted commuter/business parking that nearby neighborhoods are already afflicted with.

In a neighborhood already groaning from the weight of parking demands that cannot be meet this building makes no sense. With a little bit of regard for the residents and the law Council could have made it a MUCH better project, but a majority of them simply chose not to do so..... BTW don't they all take an oath to uphold the law?

Development has driven UP the price of housing in Palo Alto; that is why it is more expensive to live here than it was ten, twenty years ago.


41 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2016 at 9:14 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

I am missing something. Housing is priced by laws of supply and demand.

Staff reports are notoriously void of decision support data. The number of jobs created in this building must exceed the number of workers in the new housing units. If so, then Palo Alto's jobs/housing ratio is increased and the demand and price of housing increases.

I took Econ 101 fifty-three years ago so I must have forgotten something Milton Friedman tried to teach me. Economics is, indeed, dark science in city hall.

Jobs/housing ratio probably isnt in the Comp Plan, so it isn't irrelevant?

No wonder there was 2+ hours of circular Council walking thru the wilderness of city planning science.

BTW Palo Alto's TMA is not even targeting its support to California Avenue residents and businesses.


14 people like this
Posted by ajk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2016 at 9:23 am

It is great to see some much needed housing finally getting built! If we can get rid of the archaic 50 foot limit and not make every single project go in front of city hall, maybe we can make a dent in the housing deficit!

On the other hand, what is the obsession with retail? There are tons of empty retail spaces downtown, which apparently are not viable spots for a business to go. It is odd and unfortunate that our city council believes they are better at figuring out what is viable in the marketplace than businesses are.


25 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2016 at 9:44 am

Simply put ......retail is one third of a vibrant balanced community! without protecting retail through zoning we would likely have non which includes restaurant hair and nail salons shoe repair tutors etc.....

so its not an "obsession" merely good planning.

BTW mR. Bucchan is correct:econ 101..... the market drives the price of housing period.


62 people like this
Posted by It's bad for housing
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2016 at 10:58 am

The council members who thought this will help housing really blew it. This actually hurts housing by being so disastrous on many fronts that it discredits efforts to build more living units. It's an underparked, massive, ugly, instant eyesore that increases office space - precisely what we in the Bay Area DON'T want.

If council members like Kniss really want to help housing, they should insist that projects be properly parked, don't add new office space, create an attractive front, and follow all the rules. That would help win more support for such efforts.

Instead, this is one more example of how the so-called pro-housing faction is really just pro-developer and doesn't care about housing.


50 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2016 at 11:24 am

Has this Council ever seen a proposal for an oversize development that it did not like? I realize that this is the end of town that the Council sees as a dumping ground for all oversize, ugly buildings, but just for once could you refuse such a monstrosity?
We do need to clean up the site, but not with something so big without any decent green space between it and the road. We also do not need something that has insufficient parking.
All residences need at least 2 parking spaces per unit, each business needs sufficient parking for all employees (don't plan on car pools; it won't happen) plus all expected customers. Each office needs a space for each employee. If the businesses do not need all these spaces, fine. Then there will be a few left for those who shop on California Avenue.
In addition, one of the commercial areas should be for a restaurant that is not part of a chain.


9 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2016 at 11:27 am

Over parked when it meets the specified requirements? That's simply an incredible claim! I'll bet those four parking spots become outdoor seating for the restaurant ... but call it a landscaped public plaza so it doesn't sound like denser than allowed commercial activity.


59 people like this
Posted by just say no
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2016 at 11:28 am

Just say no to Burt, Scharff, Berman, Kniss and Wolbach. If the community was more engaged to run a recall, I feel all of them should be sent away from City Hall.


53 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on May 24, 2016 at 11:39 am

Thank you Tom DuBois, Karen Holman, Greg Schmid and Eric Filseth for your service to our fair city. You upheld your sacred oath of office. You did a great job advocating for rule of law.

I was relieved that Liz Kniss and Cory Wohlbach seemed in favor of denying the project -- until the applicant flip flopped and offered up 2 full BMRs instead of the 1.95 BMR that the applicant had so carefully calculated into the design to avoid triggering the second BMR. He knew his project was dead in the water without that extorted concession. I thought we had our majority to kill the illegal project, but Cory and Liz hungry for a "win" for housing frankly let us down. They did what they thought right, but they voted for an illegal project just the same.

Personally, I like the members of the approving council, the ones I have met. That they engaged in spot zoning, distorting the project so as to fake its compliance with current zoning laws, I do not like. The project should be compliant, not our laws -- which were stretched and pushed to serve the applicant's whim. It was a struggle to watch. I know everyone wants what is best for the city. What is best appears to be a matter of personal opinion however. The laws and codes and ordinances that protect us are there to insure that standards we have agreed to are adhered to. When the laws are flouted as they were last night, then democracy suffers.

It was with a heavy heart that I turned off the webcast last night, but I felt encouraged that the four members mentioned above: Tom, Karen, Greg and Eric worked as hard as they did and I took heart from their courage and service. They are wonderful role models and stood up well to the pressure to cave in.

I was concerned to hear approving members say they felt sorry for the applicant. I don’t understand that. The applicant succeeded in getting a legal body to approve their illegal project. This sends a clear message to developers and encourages them to take a turn at spinning the council roulette wheel.

We have an election coming in November. And citizens, we have work to do. Let’s organize around this. I'm in.


51 people like this
Posted by berbach
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2016 at 11:49 am

Here's the new council policy: If you switch one market rate unit to a BMR unit, we don't care if your building is compatible with the surrounding area. Apparently we have yet to find a way for aesthetically pleasing architecture and affordable housing to coexist, one continues to come at the expense of the other. Thanks Cory Wolbach.

And to voters in assembly district 24: Although Marc Berman's name is completely absent from this article, he was present. Marc Berman managed to sit in the council meeting for 3 hours without making any contribution whatsoever to the discussion of this project. Put that on a flyer and mail me three every day for the next two weeks.


23 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on May 24, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Although I haven't eaten often at Olive Garden, I hate that a reasonably priced, non-trendy restaurant is kicked out of Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Gorgol
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2016 at 2:53 pm

As long as they new tenants serve all you can eat bread sticks I have no issues.


47 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2016 at 2:59 pm



Pat Burt’s attack on Tom DuBois’ motion was merciless. He demanded detail, and more, and more detail, until he shredded it to pieces.
Burt abuses his position as chair, picking on anyone who wants something other than what he wants. Like an eagle swooping down on its prey, he goes after anyone who thinks other than he does. He uses the chairmanship for his own benefit.

Developers Galen Ma and Victor Lo (ECRPA LLC) were not identified. Ken Hayes, the city’s fair-haired developer, apparently is embarrassed by being referred to as the glassbox architect now puts some concrete around his boxes. They are still boxes.

Berman was SILENT for hours. Not a word, not a whisper! But he stayed so that he could vote for the developer. Concern about his running for Assembly?

Wolbach insisted on asking the developer whether he would agree to items, despite being told it was inappropriate to ask during a motion discussion. He then literally jumped up in glee when Ken Hayes agreed to ONE more BMR (total TWO instead of 1.95). Wolbach’s mentor, Kniss agreed with him. Wolbach said the Olive Garden is ugly.

Real estate lawyer Scharff wants them to have a “robust TDM (transportation-demand-management) program.” He knows there is NO SUCH PROGAM. Pants on fire.

Schmidt asked if the city could come up with a TDM program in time for this project. Umm, No.

Holman asked where is the Required open space for residential. Umm. well,there is a “plaza.”

BURT, SCHARFF, BERMAN, KNISS and WOLBACH work for developer$, not for our city’s well being. Again and again, no more pretense.


6 people like this
Posted by Foodie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm

I can't wait to see what comes of this, what a great opportunity to add to the community. @ChrisC, I guess there is always something to complain about. A lasagne entree at Olive Garden (a rundown corporate chain with extremely low quality food) is $17 versus, two blocks away, Terun (small business, owned by an Italian man who greets you when you arrive) serving lasagne for $19. I'm sorry, I guess I'd rather have something "trendy".


38 people like this
Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on May 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I didn't frequent the Olive Garden, although it was always full so I guess lower-end dining will take a hit.

But that isn't my concern, it's design & scope. This building is an entire block and from the photo it looks like 2/3 of it has no setbacks. That means that there will be a 40' high building adjoining the sidewalk and next to El Camino. And the design looks like a high tech campus which would be nice on a "campus", but not on our main thoroughfare. I can't believe we can't do better than this.

And why does it have to be so big? A whole block right next to the street is a travesty. Just think of Alma Plaza and you'll get the idea of what to expect with a multi-story building next to the sidewalk. Ugh.


7 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2016 at 3:27 pm

I admit I am not crazy about this building for a couple of reasons, but I have a hard time with the apparent consensus about the size being so different than nearby buildings. If you look across El Camino, there is the new Stanford apartment complex. They take up a similar length of El Camino, and they are built out to the sidewalk, and they are 3 and 4 floors. Also, the B of A building next door to the apartments is 6 floors and appears quite large. I don't see much difference between these two sides of El Camino.


24 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Brian... "two wrongs don't make a right"

Council member Filseth made this concept clear last night. Setting a precedent for MORE of what we DO NOT want is not helpful.

Also the Stanford project across the street is not based on PA zoning but a development agreement made with Stanford ten or so years ago.
Development agreements are stand alone entitlements that fall outside of the regular zoning; similar to PCs, Planned Community zones,,so they should not and cannot set a precedent for what the normal zoning allows.


46 people like this
Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Approval of this development is another step in the wrong direction along with many such approvals in the last several years. All the discussion about zoning and parking and exemptions only clouds the fact that that the present council members fall into two categories namely (1) Scharf, Kniss, Berman and Wolbach who favor the excessive growth that have brought us the traffic, parking and infrastructure problems we experience everyday and (2) Schmid, Holman, DuBois and Filseth who favor moderate growth that allows us to solve some of these problems before they get out of hand. Burt was the swing vote on this proposal, a role he seems to enjoy.

The only way to insure moderate growth is to vote for candidates that have standing records opposing excessive growth. At the last election Scharf convinced enough people that he was on the moderate growth side long enough to get re-elected then he reverted to his long-time support for excessive growth. Wolbach didn't say much about growth but he's a nice guy so several people voted for him for that reason. Now we know he is for excessive growth. We have a chance to make the majority of the council stand for moderate growth in the next election. If you are for moderate growth, make sure you know where each of the candidates stand on the growth issue, the most important issue in the election. And if a candidate isn't clearly for moderate growth, don't vote for him or her. Voting for such a candidate negates your vote for a moderate growth candidate. You don't have to use all five of your votes if you don't want to. Vote only for those candidates that have a record of opposing excessive growth.

Don't we wish now that we had Lydia Kou on council? We may get another chance in the upcoming election. If you're for moderate growth, encourage her to run again.


36 people like this
Posted by More pants on fire
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2016 at 4:30 pm

More pants on fire is a registered user.

I don't know about other voters, but I feel betrayed by Cory Wolbach [portion removed.]

I can"t take back my vote, but I certainly will NOT vote for him if he runs again. However, if he has any common sense, he WON'T!


29 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 24, 2016 at 4:41 pm

Jim Colton,

I do wish Lydia had been elected. Maybe we will have a chance to vote for her again!!!


33 people like this
Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Palo Alto and Sunnyvale are canyonizing El Camino, and they'll be sorry in the long run.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm

So, will the Olive Garden and the old B of A building across the street both be demolished and redeveloped at the same time?


17 people like this
Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on May 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

I guess I was totally missing the new developments across from Olive Garden because they are behind construction mesh. But after reading Brian's post:

"...but I have a hard time with the apparent consensus about the size being so different than nearby buildings. If you look across El Camino, there is the new Stanford apartment complex. They take up a similar length of El Camino, and they are built out to the sidewalk, and they are 3 and 4 floors. Also, the B of A building next door to the apartments is 6 floors and appears quite large. I don't see much difference between these two sides of El Camino."

I happened to drive by this afternoon and it's right there. Again no setbacks up to the sidewalk. I agree that the Olive Garden development size is in line with the other two new developments, but that is a bad thing in my mind. Bad design after bad design.



18 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Mayor Burt justified voting for this development because the city will ask for a "robust" TDA to reduce employees driving to work by 20%-no make that 30%, because there is alternative transport available. Council member Greg Schmidt asked if there was any data to back up the claims for a 20-3% reduction in vehicles. Staff said there is none. Council member Schmidt asked how the city would know if there was a 20-30%. Staff replied that this will be self-reported to city staff once a year. So no verification needed. Council member Schmidt asked what measures were in place to enforce the 20-30% reduction in car trips. Staff replied there is none.

In fact, once this building is occupied, with very few parking places (so few employees will not drive to work, right?), there is a very convenient parking lot with a pleasant five or 10 minute stroll from offices in the California Avenue. It is right across the railroad tracks in the residential neighborhood, and a convenient pedestrian underpass.


4 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2016 at 6:06 pm

@Gennady Sheyner
"This would limit office use to less than 1,000 square feet."

My understanding from watching the debate is that by removing the approximately 5,000 sq ft of offices at street level there will remain approximately 5,000 sq ft on the second floor.


11 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on May 24, 2016 at 6:06 pm

@Eva, I'd like to call your attention to Anon from Evergreen's response to @Brian:

"Also the Stanford project across the street is not based on PA zoning but a development agreement made with Stanford ten or so years ago.
Development agreements are stand alone entitlements that fall outside of the regular zoning; similar to PCs, Planned Community zones,,so they should not and cannot set a precedent for what the normal zoning allows."

So that is why there is already that other solid wall across the street. Not the council's call. For me, it's time consuming to parse this stuff out, which plays to the advantage of moneyed interests because they have all day and pots of money to study the code to find the work arounds, that's how they maximize their profits, which is their goal. I have never tried to develop a commercial property so I can't empathize with their plight.

We citizens don't have enough, I guess we don't have any folks on our payroll that can spend all day as community watchdogs to curb this abuse, to have someone go over every project with the fine tooth comb of the building code. But we could I suppose pool our money and hire someone. But even if we hired our own expert, there is not guarantee that the pro-development counsel wouldn't just approve the project anyway.

I am so grateful that we have many wonderful citizens that give up their volunteer time to drill down into these projects, actually study the blueprints and find the code violations that for some reason slip by the City staff assigned to their review. City Staff is inundated with applications so they have a lot to juggle. But the inundation is understandable as the developers rightly have come to expect handouts and giveaways in the form of code exemptions and the like.

Thanks Eva for taking an interest in our civic life. Welcome!



15 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm

@anon wrote:

"another blow to quality of life in Palo alto"

That is being a little melodramatic, isn't it? Not to mention inaccurate. Worried about traffic? Gimme a break, there is already lots of traffic on El Camino, and has been for decades. Olive Garden's parking lot seemed to always be full, yet nobody seemed worried about the traffic it created.

Palo Alto has an acute shortage of both housing and office space. We need more of both and this project addresses that need.


11 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2016 at 6:34 pm

"The only way to insure moderate growth is to vote for candidates that have standing records opposing excessive growth."

These developments are not at all excessive. If anything they are insufficient. Palo Alto is on the hook for planning for over 2,000 new housing units. Add to that a dire need for office and affordable retail space and way forward becomes clear. The Anti-Growther path simply is not feasible, as it is based on NIMBY as workable solution. All that approach has brought is rapidly disappearing retail shops and sky-high rents. At least this new development will have ground floor retail. And what is wrong with providing homes for people? Somebody did that for you. And me and all the Palo Altans whinging because there are other people in our fair city.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I haven't read all the posts because I was out on the ocean fishing for salmon all day, and I didn't stay up late watching it on TV last night. But in the end, with the changes, it sounds like a project I can live with. Obviously traffic is my biggest concern in that location. I don't know if ECRPA accepted it as approved by council. If they do and the project proceeds, we'll just have to watch and wait. Then we'll get to hear from both parties on the issue when it's done. If it works out beautifully we'll hear 'we told you so' from the supporters...if it doesn't work out we'll hear 'we told you so' from those opposed.

I'm glad to hear that CC is making progress in making it tougher to get projects approved, making them follow the current zoning and other ground rules. I think the residents spoke up very well in the last election and CC is finally starting to listen and get the message.


15 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Now I've read all the posts. I agree with some and disagree with others. Too tired to comment on them. But I agree on another issue, money, not color (black), matters in state assembly races, and too many times we elect the wrong person into office based on that. I'll leave it at that, but I think you know who I'm talking about. I wish I had the secret on how to get all our registered voters informed, really informed, about all the candidates. I accept it as a lost cause because most of them don't take the effort and time to do it.

So, we get who we get...those with the most signs stuck up on lawns...yada, yada, yada. 'He must be a good guy so let's vote for him'. Name recognition is a powerful tool, even in it's worst form.


22 people like this
Posted by nowhere to run
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Turning El Camino Real into the new Wilshire Blvd. I thought I had managed to escape from Los Angeles.


6 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2016 at 7:50 pm

"Turning El Camino Real into the new Wilshire Blvd. I thought I had managed to escape from Los Angeles."

Nah, people from out of state are swarming into Silicon Valley just as they are in Los Angeles. We don't talk in valspeak, though.


22 people like this
Posted by CM
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2016 at 11:33 pm

Yet again the over development community wins. All those people who believed that Wolbach and Scharff actually were for residents in the last election - shame on you. Their being on the council is why we get all these 5 - 4 votes to approve massive developments. It is also why zoning rules that were approved to allow these massive buildings over the last decade have not been undone. You can thank Kniss and Burt for many of these. Remember that when Kniss runs again for council.

This building is yet another nail in the livability of Palo Alto's coffin. More traffic, more congestion, more crowded everything. This council is betraying what most of the residents of Palo Alto want and they are being pushed that way by a city manager and employees who buy into the growth is good philosophy. It is not good - it is bad for the environment, bad for our mental health and bad for the city.

Next election - try hard to tell who really represents the residents of this city and who is lying to get elected. And ask that city manager Keene be fired and that a manager who understands how to balance a budget and save money and wants to work for residents be hired.


14 people like this
Posted by Citizens Unite
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 25, 2016 at 11:44 am

A 240 foot long walk without a break....Ken Hayes never saw a volume he couldn't fill. At least the project across the street has some breaks. Also little mention of the single family home directly behind this Wall that will no longer have views of the foothills.

We need strong candidates for City Council. Long term residents with families please community service by serving on Council. Without citizen participation we are driven by development interests.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm

I'm glad this project got approved and the changes make it even more appealing. Please get rid of more crappy restaurants on el Camino. The slow growth residentialists and the nimby commenters here are so out of touch with what is needed in the region it's ridiculous. Please do away with parking minimums or at least unbundle parking from the units. Keep pushing for tdm.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ Peter

I too think that with the changes made it should work out to be a good project. Time will tell. I don't know what other projects were offered. Probably none that would make us slow growth people totally happy. But don't denigrate what you think are crappy restaurants. We had very good meals at Olive Garden, and even going back a long time ago at Sizzlers. Crappy...no...gourmet...no, but a good cheap meal and seconds and go back to the dessert bar and fill up on ice cream and toppings as many times as you wanted. The good old days in PA for middle class families with kids are gone. I don't know how our current CC can still pretend that it can be saved, especially since they aren't doing anything real to save it. Any restaurant at this development site will be high end and expensive as well as the boutique retail stores. There will be nothing there for us, the non rich, long time locals, to be able to afford, and so we won't go there to spend our taxed dollars. We'll drive, yes I said drive, to faraway malls. And is that really what the 'pro growthers' want? They talk one way, but vote the other. They're becoming a mysterious group to me. Still believing we need more office space is mind boggling. If that is their mantra and direction I will vote a lot differently in the next election.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 25, 2016 at 7:30 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

What is needed in this region is less people, less environmental destruction and less traffic. The last thing Palo Alto needs is more people and more offices. We don't need any more offices for the next 50 years. If we want to turn it into a midsize city like Berkeley, go ahead and add more housing. If we want to save its character, livability and quality of life, we should be brave enough to say;ENOUGH! No, no one has an inherent right to live in Palo Alto and it can't accommodate all who even a tiny percentage of those who can't find happiness unless they live here.


11 people like this
Posted by Ken M
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 25, 2016 at 9:30 pm

This is one of the few high quality restaurants I can afford on my fixed income. I will miss it.


23 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2016 at 10:47 pm

The proposed building actually creates more demand for housing than it satisfies. In today's office environment, 1,000sqft of office will provide space for 20 new daytime migrant tech-workers, but the building only provides 13 units of housing.

This building will have a negative impact on Palo Alto's worker-to-housing ratio, and increase demand for Palo Alto housing, which will only drive prices even higher.

How much more unimaginative office-park architecture can Palo Alto take, before it just becomes an overpriced version of Sunnyvale.


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2016 at 6:53 am

mauricio is a registered user.

More office construction in Palo Alto always leads to the same thing:more whining from office workers about not being able to afford to live near their office.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 8:00 am

"This is one of the few high quality restaurants I can afford on my fixed income. I will miss it."

Not to worry, there are a number of restaurants within a few blocks that cost about the same and are better. I never understood why Olive Garden was so popular. Everything around Cal Ave seems to close at 9pm, so some people might see that as a drawback.

More office construction in Palo Alto always leads to the same thing:more whining from office workers about not being able to afford to live near their office."

Which in turn leads to whining about traffic. The solution to both problems is to build more housing, which means building up. That, in turn, leads to a temper tantrum meltdown by the anti-progress / anti-growth contingent. The truth of the matter is that a new apartment complex just opened two blocks from the Olive Garden. Anyone who bothered to get off their backside and check would have seen that there another fancy new complex set to be completed soon four blocks away.
Even so, much more housing is needed, and mandated by ABAG.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 8:04 am

"What is needed in this region is less people, less environmental destruction and less traffic."

Assuming that your premise is true, do you intend to continue being part of the problem, or are you volunteering to be part of the solution?


5 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2016 at 8:29 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I am part of the solution. I'm in the process of closing on a house out in more rural California(an existing house, replacing a family moving out, not one that's being developed for me), while keeping my Palo Alto house and not renting it out.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2016 at 2:23 pm

I am not a particular fan of the Olive Garden, but I have eaten there because it does seem to fill a need for many.

It is not an extravagantly expensive restaurant, and with specials and coupons, there are many who go there regularly for this reason. Another reason I know many people who like to go there is because it has its own parking lot with disabled spots right outside and since a large number of popular restaurants are losing this convenience, it makes a big difference to people who have to use disabled parking and walk with a walker and want a sit down, waiter service, meal. An elderly person who uses a walker doesn't want to stand to order their meal at a counter. They don't want to be rushed to order while reading a menu on the wall behind the counter. They don't want to be asked so many options while standing at a counter. They don't want to be rushed to search for a wallet to pay while standing holding their walker at the counter.

Olive Garden filled a need for a large number of people in the community. With this gap, there is one less place for them to go and enjoy a meal away from home.

Sad that this town talks about how the population is aging, and then prevents those older people from actually being able to live their lives the way they want.


8 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 4:26 pm

@Kazu says "I never understood why Olive Garden was so popular."

True, you don't understand. If you would read what people write, your understanding might increase. [Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2016 at 4:38 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I have to concur with "Pants on fire". Kazi's "solutions", always demanding more development and more population density, always aligned with the plans and aspirations big developers have for Palo Alto, are akin to an "expert" claiming that the best remedy for third degree burns is to pour boiling water on them.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 6:01 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2016 at 6:10 pm

The ones who used the Olive Garden are the ones who are least able to find a new place to eat out that meets their budget and their accessibility needs.


6 people like this
Posted by Palo alto native
a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Another loss to our community and the no growth faction (of which I am one). Solution: get a majority of no growth council members elected. We are only shy of one vote.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Barron Park
on May 29, 2016 at 3:31 pm

13 new units, plus office space! Yippee!!! More property tax money to go into the coffers!! Now we can justify city employee pay raises, and pension plans!! Go Keene!!! Yipee!!!! And this is just the tip of the iceberg.


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 29, 2016 at 8:53 pm

If Olive Garden were economically viable here, it would have found another location in Palo Alto. Its remaining locations are primarily in the East Bay, south and east San Jose, exurbs, and Central Valley. There is one location in Stonestown in the Sunset District of SF. Darden, owner of OG, has been a long-running turn-around story and it seems like there are tweaking their operations to make it profitable.
High Palo Alto rents would crimp their operating margin significantly.


2 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2016 at 10:23 pm

Kazu, you wrote "I never understood why Olive Garden was so popular."
That sentence sticks in my mind, and I wonder what kind of person would say that. It reflects such a lack of information and shallowness that I'm moved to speculate about why you might hold that view.

Are you new in the area? I get the feeling that you are encountering some local opinions for the first time. When someone objected to the ugly buildings being built, you accused the writer of saying the Olive Garden is beautiful.
You need to understand the culture in this community. Lots of smart people express themselves here and you call them whiners.
Is it whining to object to the money culture that has degraded the once human atmosphere in Palo Alto?
Is it whining to try to maintain our lives in a civilized town that is being invaded, and overrun by big corporations, their money and values?
Is greed and ruthlessness something we should embrace?

Kazu, are you new to this town? Slow down! You might get to like us.


2 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Again Liz Kniss voted for massive redevelopment to replace one of the few family-friendly moderately priced restaurants in Palo Alto, allowing them to reduce their parking allotment by joining a TMA - which may or may not have any real impact on traffic.

Why don't we have plans in place that have proven to reduce traffic before giving an ok to massive developments? What a concept - have the infrastructure in place before more building. What happened to the moratorium on new office space near California Avenue? Why isn't this affected by it?

There should be no allowances made except for low-to-moderate income housing. This site would have been perfect for that. When was the last time Palo Alto spent any of the impact fees on new low-to-moderate income housing? They have promised $14.5M for BV, which I support. But that only preserves existing housing, which while important, doesn't do anything for new residents. Why doesn't the Santa Clara Housing Authority or the Palo Alto Housing Authority buy this lot and build much needed low-to-moderate income housing. This location, unlike Maybell, would make a lot of sense.


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

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