Board approves California Avenue garage

Six-level structure gets green light from Architectural Review Board

Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board approved on March 1, 2018, the design for the new parking garage at 350 Sherman Ave. that will be four stories high and have two underground levels. Rendering by RossDrulisCusenbery.

Palo Alto's effort to build a six-level garage near California Avenue moved ahead Thursday morning, when the Architectural Review Board signed off on the project.

By a 4-1 vote, with Robert Gooyer dissenting, the board threw its support behind the parking facility at 350 Sherman Ave. The garage will be four stories high and have two underground levels. It will occupy an existing city-owned parking lot.

The board's approval came after three public hearings. At the prior review on Jan. 18, board members criticized the proposed design, particularly the wall that was proposed for an area behind the staircase along the Birch Street frontage. In response, the city's architect for the project, RossDrulisCusenbery, proposed a new feature for the wall: a mosaic of porcelain tiles that will refract sunlight and create an "optical experience."

Mallory Cusenbery, principal at the firm, told the board that the mosaic will include three different tile types -- glossy, honed and textured -- that will reflect light and interact with sunlight and shadows in distinct ways. Though the wall will still look like one distinct color from a distance, as one moves closer, "its richness starts to show itself."

"Different tiles will behave differently, depending on how light hits them," Cusenbery said.

The firm made a few other modifications, based on the board's feedback. It removed a ground-floor column and replaced it with a beam so as to make it possible for the city to construct in the future a second exit from the garage to Jacarana Lane (this exit will not be constructed as part of the project). The new design also relocates a transformer at the garage site to a new location, at the corner of Ash Street and Sherman Avenue.

The board took some issue with the new transformer location and recommended that the council consider yet another place for the equipment. If it cannot be moved underground, the architect should create screening around the equipment, the board agreed.

After that quibble, board members generally agreed that the project has improved since they last saw it.

"I'm happy with how it's come along," said Board Chair Wynne Furth, minutes before the vote.

The board's approval represents a major milestone for the $40-million garage project, which is one of the central components of the City Council's infrastructure plan, which also includes a downtown garage, two rebuilt fire stations, a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 and a new public-safety building, which would be constructed next to the California Avenue garage, immediately after the garage is built.

For California Avenue merchants, the project also comes with a sense of urgency. The commercial neighborhood continues to experience parking shortages during the lunch hours. Jack Morton, president of the California Avenue Business Association, told the board Thursday that the merchants are "very excited" about the provision of the second exit, which they believe will be necessary and the potential of Jacaranda Lane to become a "community thoroughfare."

Though the project is moving along slowly, Morton said, "the result is something the business community and neighbors are excited about."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


11 people like this
Posted by Useful
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2018 at 3:02 pm

I believe this garage will be useful. There is not enough parking in the parking lots right now.

7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2018 at 3:15 pm

I'm not sure how this works for commuters, but, I hope that large businesses' employees will somehow be required to -not- park on surface streets. I would hate to see this built, and large employers still park on streets, with the hope that customers for small businesses (e.g. shoe repair business) park in the garage. Making it quick and easy is key for small business. Commuters must use the garage.

5 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2018 at 5:20 pm

eileen is a registered user.

I totally agree with Anon.
It would be nice to be able to get a quick errand done during the day. No parking anywhere
on or near Cal Ave at 3pm today.

14 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2018 at 6:11 pm

Who is paying this $40 MILLION? Will parking permits be expensive enough to cover the construction cost? A special tax on the nearby businesses who are the main beneficiaries? Or will it be primarily subsidized by homeowners throughout the city through property taxes and utility taxes?

7 people like this
Posted by Another Win
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Another win for the community. Pulls employee parking out of the residential neighborhoods while providing more customer parking for retail and restaurant customers. Enough capacity to last awhile, while the city continues to under park new projects (sigh), e.g. corner of El Camino and Page Mill project that is in the works.

2 people like this
Posted by Mike Forster
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 16, 2018 at 9:14 pm

Mike Forster is a registered user.

Before our city spends $40 to $80 million on 1, 2, or 3 new parking garages, I suggest the following:

Perform a survey of the busy time visitors to the California Avenue business district. It could be a very short paper survey:
What zip code did you travel from to California Avenue today?
Did you walk or bike?
Did you take transit (Caltrain, bus, city shuttle, taxi/Uber/Lyft)?
Did you drive?

The survey could be performed as a minimum-wage temporary job for high school or college students, or possibly even by volunteers.

If we find that almost everyone comes from other parts of Palo Alto, or nearby parts of Mountain View, Menlo Park, Atherton, or Redwood City, then perhaps additional shuttles from those locations would be MUCH less expensive than $40M to $80M.

Then, if our region is successful in improving transit over the next decade so that fewer people drive 1 car/1 person, we won't have spent $40M to $80M on what might become nearly empty parking garages.

9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I hope that like Mountain View's "Google tax" per employee, that Palo Alto will finally get its act together ans start counting and then taxing big-company employees. Mountain View expects to raise $10,000,000 with half of that from Google which is significantly more than the $250,000 it gets from its $30 per company business license fee.

It's high time for the big companies to start paying their share and for the city to stop shifting the tax burdens to residents.

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Gluten-free bakery Misfits Bakehouse is reborn in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 2,961 views

Premarital and Couples: The "Right" Way to Eat an Artichoke
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,882 views

What did you learn last week?
By Sherry Listgarten | 8 comments | 1,305 views

Some answers, please, PG&E
By Diana Diamond | 12 comments | 1,303 views

The holiday season
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 288 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results