A proposal to convert the President Hotel in downtown Palo Alto from an apartment building to a hotel may now be in peril, but that apparently won't be enough to save residents of the University Avenue building from displacement.
The company Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners (AJ Capital), which last month purchased the building at 488 University Ave., informed the residents of the building's 75 units on Monday that it will not renew any tenant leases beyond Nov. 12, consistent with the eviction notices it had sent out last month. The new notice comes days after city planners had notified the company that its conversion to a hotel would violate the zoning code.
Timothy Franzen, president of Graduate Hotels (a brand of AJ Capital), informed residents in a letter issued Monday that his company disagrees with the city's current reading of the Municipal Code provisions and will continue its discussions with the city over the coming days. While the dispute continues, it does not change the company's position that the residents must vacate the building by Nov. 12, the letter from Franzen states.
The city deemed the proposed conversion illegal based on a code provision that pertains to "grandfathered" buildings in the downtown area. The zoning code allows renovations of grandfathered buildings (those that were established before the zoning code was adopted), provided these buildings retain "the same use" as part of the renovation. City planners had determined that by converting the 1929 building from an apartment complex to its original use as a hotel, the developer would violate the "same use" provision.
The company did not respond last week to the Weekly's inquiries about what effect, if any, the determination would have on residents. Monday's letter indicates that AJ Capital intends to move forward with the evictions, notwithstanding its dispute with the city.
"We did not want there to be any confusion due to questions raised in recent articles as to what, if any, effect our discussions with the City have on the time you have remaining in the building,” states Franzen's letter, which was posted on tenants' doors Monday. "You should continue with your efforts to find new housing and we encourage you to take advantage of the expert relocation services firm that we have engaged to assist in your efforts."
Franzen wrote that the company "fully appreciate(s) the burdens and difficulties of finding and moving to new homes, which is why we have offered the additional time and financial support."