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Documents reveal secret dealings over President Hotel

Using tenants as leverage, developer pushes to speed city approvals

The President Hotel, built in 1929 and converted to 75 studio and one-bedroom apartments 50 years ago, was bought by Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners in June with the intention of turning it back into a hotel. Photo by Veronica Weber.

When Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners notified the tenants of the President Hotel Apartments in downtown Palo Alto in June that they would be evicted in November so that the iconic 1929 building could once again serve as a hotel, the pushback from Palo Alto residents and city leaders was strong and swift.

Tenants and housing advocates turned up at City Hall en masse to urge the City Council to stop the conversion and prevent evictions from the 75 apartments. City planners told AJ Capital in July that the proposed hotel project would violate a city law that requires a "grandfathered" building undergoing renovation to retain its current use — in this case, housing.

Many critics argued that AJ Capital's plan would destroy a diverse community that has flourished for decades at the historic Birge Clark-designed building. John Vermes was one of dozens who pleaded with the council in July to do what it could to prevent the community from becoming a "footnote to history."

Others pointed out the paradox of eliminating 75 apartments amid a shortage of housing that prompted Palo Alto to set a goal of adding 300 housing units per year — a target that the city's nowhere close to meeting.

Katya Priess, a President Hotel resident, argued at the council's July 30 meeting that, in an area with exorbitant housing costs, "each substantial loss of housing becomes a moral issue."

Most members of the council appeared to share these sentiments, having discussed for the better part of a year the need to protect tenants facing the loss of housing. In August the council approved an urgency ordinance increasing relocation assistance for displaced tenants and directed its Policy and Services Committee to discuss other policies that could help renters.

But despite the public outcry and the council's desires to see more housing built and to prevent tenants from being evicted, the hotel conversion proposal has somehow picked up momentum since the summer.

Dozens of units are now vacant; the tenants are no longer speaking out; and the city is preparing to consider in the coming weeks two zoning changes that would pave the way for the hotel. One is the removal of 350,000-square-foot limit on non-residential development downtown, a threshold that the city is on the cusp of reaching and that the President Hotel conversion would exceed.

Another is the removal of the "grandfathered facilities" provision that specifies that old buildings that are out of compliance with zoning can only be renovated if they maintain the same use.

Although interim Planning Director Jonathan Lait sent AJ Capital the July letter stating that the conversion would run afoul of the "grandfathered facilities" provision — and despite the council having had no intervening discussions on the matter — city planners are now suddenly recommending that the clause be removed from the city's zoning code.

As a result, a project that only months ago was broadly unpopular, legally dubious and contrary to the council's officially adopted goal of creating more housing now appears to be on the fast track toward approval. In a city where even mundane developments take years to germinate, the turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable.

How did this happen? Documents obtained by the Weekly in response to a Public Records Act request shed light on what has been going on behind the scenes: The correspondence makes clear that since July, AJ Capital has been both actively lobbying and privately negotiating with tenants, top City Hall staff and at least one member of the council, with the goal of getting a green light for its project by the end of this year. The company's representatives and consultants have sparred with the city over entitlements while AJ Capital's attorney both threatened the city with litigation and negotiated with tenants with the goal of silencing their opposition.

AJ Capital's multi-pronged strategy has already borne some fruit. Most of the tenants in late October signed an agreement in which they consented not to oppose the hotel project in exchange for money and a few more months at the President. Council members have been mum on the project, fearful of saying anything that could hinder the city in a potential lawsuit. And city staff is now preparing to change the zoning code, prompting questions and concerns from Palo Alto's land-use and good-government observers.

Winter Dellenbach, who led the effort from 2012 to 2017 to prevent the closure of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and who has been talking with President Hotel tenants, is one of several residents who find the city's upcoming discussion of the two zone changes suspicious.

"The overriding question for us is: Why is the city even contemplating doing this? Why is the city contemplating even entertaining these items, given that the proposed changes would convey such massive new entitlements and financial benefits to AJ Capital and only short-term limited relief to remaining hotel residents?" Dellenbach wrote to the Weekly.

The grandfather clause

AJ Capital has been gunning for the zoning changes ever since they were identified during the summer, much to the developer's surprise, documents show. Before that — in a June 7 meeting of AJ Capital's application team, Lait and City Manager Jim Keene — a company consultant had indicated that AJ Capital would "only need to address parking and obtain design review approval" for the conversion to go ahead, according to Lait.

Keene himself told the council in June that hotel uses are permitted downtown "by right."

The following week, however, Keene said staff was still exploring the pertinent zoning laws to determine whether the project could legally proceed.

The bad news for AJ Capital came in the July 17 letter from Lait.

"The city has conducted a review of the property and determined that the establishment of a hotel at this location, as described, is impermissible based on existing regulations and site characteristics," Lait wrote. "Specifically, the (code provision) precludes the remodeling, improving or replacement of site improvements together with the conversion of an existing non-complying facility in the subject property's Downtown Commercial CD-C district to a different land use."

While AJ Capital immediately contested the city's finding, an attorney hired by the tenants supported the city's determination. Heather Minner, an attorney with the firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, noted in a July 27 letter to the city that based on the plain language of the grandfather provision, "remodeling non-complying facilities is permitted only for 'continual use' of the 'same use' that currently exists."

"If AJ Capital wishes to develop a luxury hotel in Palo alto, it must do so in a manner that complies with the city's zoning-code regulations," Minner wrote. "The city's determination that the code prohibits converting residential apartments in an oversized building into a new hotel use is well supported by the plain language of the code and by legal precedent. Any other determination would contravene the Comprehensive Plan's housing policies, deepen the city's housing crisis, and frustrate efforts to improve traffic congestion for all residents."

AJ Capital, meanwhile, was preparing its legal response, a 15-page letter from David Lanferman of the Palo Alto law firm Rutan & Tucker, sent to Lait on Aug. 20, that asserted numerous reasons why it believed the "grandfathered facilities" provision stood in conflict with other city regulations and should be done away with.

Specifically, Lanferman argued that the city's interpretation of the code is "fatally inconsistent" with the Comprehensive Plan provisions that allow hotels in commercial districts; that encourage preservation and restoration of historic structures; and that urge seismic safety improvements.

The city's findings on the "grandfathered facilities" clause, he wrote, clashes with a different section of the zoning code, which explicitly permits renovations to non-conforming buildings, provided these alterations accommodate a conforming use — namely, in this case, a hotel.

"This project easily meets that provision, by restoring the President Hotel to a conforming use and not increasing the existing degree of nonconformity," Lanferman wrote.

Side conversations

Even as AJ Capital was meeting with city staff, it was also having side conversations with at least one council member — and trying to hurry up the process.

According to email correspondence obtained by the Weekly, Tim Franzen, president of Graduate Hotels (a division of AJ Capital), reached out to Councilman Greg Scharff on Sept. 13 to update him about AJ Capital's effort to reach an agreement with President Hotel tenants — a deal that would require the tenants to stop opposing the hotel conversion in exchange for money and an extension of their stay at the building until June 16, 2019. (Read more in "The deal and the deadlines.")

The correspondence makes clear that Scharff and Franzen held several discussions about the topic in September and that, at least in one case, Franzen was seeking advice from Scharff on how to proceed. The emails indicate that the two talked about the potential agreement on Sept. 23. The following day, Franzen emailed Scharff a document that he said "outlines what I walked you through yesterday in terms of both additional time and financial assistance to the residents, along with what we'll need from the city in terms of project approvals."

Franzen told Scharff that he had asked the company's attorney to call the tenants' attorney to walk him through AJ Capital's proposal to tenants, which he said appears to be "very much in line with what they asked for at the end of last week."

"We would also like to schedule a call with (City Attorney) Molly Stump, but we'll await your OK before doing so," Franzen wrote.

The Sept. 24 document, which the Weekly has obtained, makes clear what AJ Capital expected from the city, as well as the link between the city's actions and the tenants' potential benefits. Under its terms, residents would be allowed to stay in their apartments until June 16, 2019, and receive additional relocation payments if the city effectively stands down and gives AJ Capital what it wants in a timely manner.

"The spirit of this agreement is that, in exchange for additional time and financial assistance granted to the residents of the President Hotel Apartments by AJ Capital, the city will take the following actions and will generally work in good faith with AJ Capital to remove all impediments, and to not cause any unusual or unreasonable delays or impose any unusual or unreasonable conditions, to AJ Capital's receipt of any and all permits or approvals necessary for AJ Capital's planned conversion of the Hotel President back to its original use as a hotel," the document states.

Specifically, the city would have to "accept and approve" AJ Capital's interpretation of city's provision on grandfathered facilities (as articulated by Lanferman in the Aug. 20 letter); exempt Hotel President from parking requirements (Read more in "Developer seeks parking exemptions"); expedite the approval of a conditional use permit for alcohol sales at the hotel; and approve access to the "entire usable area of rooftop" for use by Hotel President.

The proposed agreement also notes that the city would have to pass the changes by Oct. 8. If not, the document states, "AJ Capital will keep its non-renewal date of Nov. 12, 2018, and reserves its rights to challenge the applicability and legality of the (relocation-assistance) emergency ordinance to it." (The council had passed an ordinance in August stating the conditions under which property owners have to provide evicted tenants with relocation payments.)

When asked about his exchanges with Franzen, Scharff said he approached the developer in early September at the behest of President Hotel tenants. One tenant, Michelle Kraus, invited Scharff to meet with a group tenants, who asked him if there was anything the city could do to extend their stay.

"It became clear that the tenants really wanted to stay past November and this was a huge hardship for them," Scharff told the Weekly. "I said I'd reach out to Tim Franzen and see what we can do to get them to be able stay at least through January."

After having conversations with Franzen, he received from AJ Capital the list of actions that the city would need to take in exchange for deferring the evictions. Scharff said he immediately rejected these terms.

"I told him that the city doesn't make deals and that it's an open process," Scharff said.

After making the introductions, Scharff said he stepped back from the negotiations process and did not have any further discussions with AJ Capital.

Franzen said his company does not wish to comment at this time. Steve Emslie, a consultant with Lighthouse Public Affairs who helped facilitate meetings between AJ Capital and City Hall, also said the company does not wish to comment.

A shifting stance

The documents released to the Weekly provide a papertrail of AJ Capital's active negotiations with both the city and with tenants — and its use of former City Hall insiders to try to gain access.

On Oct. 3, on behalf of AJ Capital, Richard Hackmann, who used to work under Keene in the city manager's office, reached out to Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada and City Attorney Molly Stump, trying to arrange meetings with AJ Capital officials. On the same day, Emslie, Palo Alto's former planning director and deputy city manager, reached out to Lait to try to schedule an Oct. 10 meeting with the AJ Capital team, which was coming to town.

"Do you think it would be a good idea to schedule a face-to-face meeting sometime Wednesday in an attempt to make significant progress or even to wrap up issues?" Emslie wrote to Lait.

The meeting between AJ Capital Partners and city staff occurred on Oct. 22, Stump told the Weekly. At that meeting, AJ Capital gave the city a one-page summary of an agreement they told the city they had reached with the President Hotel tenants and updated staff on their project.

"There was a general discussion of city processes and requirements," Stump wrote.

By the end of the month, city officials began to signal that they were willing to reconsider the grandfather clause that stood in the way of AJ Capital's plans, issuing a "tentative agenda" indicating that the council would discuss the provision at its Dec. 3 meeting.

In addition, at least some council members were privately updated on the negotiations between the tenants and the developer, which culminated in an Oct. 26 developer-tenant agreement that barred tenants from voicing any opposition to the conversion plan and identified Dec. 17 as a deadline set by AJ Capital for gaining certain city approvals. After hearing about the agreement, Councilwoman Lydia Kou told the Weekly on Nov. 2 that she was "furious" about it, though she declined to discuss the terms.

Last week, planning staff released a report making a case, for the first time, for abolishing the grandfather clause, a strong indication that AJ Capital's lobbying and threats of litigation may be paying off for the company. The staff report stated that the grandfather clause "for continual use and occupancy, by the same use" was mistakenly added in January 2016 as part of a broader ordinance revising the zoning code.

Lait told the Weekly that city planners appeared to have made the change by inadvertently copying-and-pasting text from a different code provision that relates to grandfathered uses.

"Clearly, the President Hotel conversation surrounding AJ Capital has caused us to be aware of this code provision and now that we're aware of it, we're seeking to address it," he told the Weekly.

When the council approved the zoning ordinance in January 2016 that included this provision, the change was not highlighted in the ordinance and the accompanying staff reports "included no reference or policy analysis related to the change," the planning report states.

The report also argues that President Hotel isn't the only building that is impacted by the "same use" provision and cited a few others, including the Cheesecake Factory building on University Avenue and the former North Face building on Alma, both of which had trouble getting a new tenant.

The report claims that the clause has had various "negative impacts," including frustrated property owners.

"If the council decides not to amend the code, the city can expect additional downtown property owners objecting to the standard and frustrated by an inability to remodel to fill tenant spaces based on market demand and subject to the city's other regulatory requirements."

The report also states that without changing the law, other downtown properties that don't comply with the city's height and density regulations would be "prevented from remodeling, improving or replacing their facilities to change from existing land uses to other permitted or conditionally permitted land uses, including a change from non-retail to retail, which other city policies support."

The report also mentions that AJ Capital "has asserted that application of the current code would run afoul of the Ellis Act, among other state laws." (The Ellis Act ensures that property owners are able to close a rental property and evict all tenants without a local municipality preventing it.)

The staff recommendation is remarkable for several reasons. The council has never publicly discussed the removal of the grandfather clause, and planning staff is generally loathe to take on new projects without council direction. (It's far more common for Keene and other top executives to cite their daunting workload as a reason for why they cannot pursue new initiatives.)

Also, zone changes are typically vetted by the Planning and Transportation Commission before going to the council. In this case, staff deemed the removal of the "grandfather facility" provision critical for preserving "public health, safety and welfare." As such, it is going straight to council for approval on a temporary basis (the planning commission would later consider a permanent change).

Housing advocates had also pointed out that the conversion clearly runs counter to the city's housing priorities, noting that 75 apartments would be eliminated. While not technically low-income housing, rents at the President ranged from $1,200 to $2,400 a month, according to signage at the building.

Jeff Levinsky, who in June alerted city officials and residents about the proposed hotel's inconsistency with the "grandfathered facilities" clause, told the Weekly that he found it striking that the city is now considering abolishing the phrase, which could enable the loss of more housing.

If the city were to remove the restriction, other historic properties in the downtown area — including the 85-unit Stalling Court (formerly Laning Chateau), a 1929 multi-family complex at Gilman Street and Forest Avenue — would also be eligible to switch from residential to commercial use, he said.

"Our grandfathering laws downtown are pretty strict," Levinsky said. "The idea is that you have these giant buildings that in no way would have been allowed to get built today. So if you have them, you have limited rights with what you can do with them."

Despite Levinksy's and Dellenbach's suspicions that the staff recommendation to change the code now is tied to the President Hotel project and December deadlines set by AJ Capital, Lait denied the connection.

"This isn't about the President Hotel," Lait said. "This is about an inadvertent code change that we need to fix."

A controversial cap

Though the council agenda item to scrap the grandfathered-facilities provision seemed to emerge out of the blue, the recommendation to remove the downtown cap on non-residential development from the city's municipal code has been nearly two years in the making.

The idea to eliminate the cap, which has been in place since 1998, first emerged on Jan. 30, 2017, during a contentious and controversial council meeting over the pending update of the Comprehensive Plan. By a 5-4 vote, the downtown cap, which limits non-residential development built in the downtown area since 1998 to 350,000 square feet, was eliminated from the plan.

The policy, however, has not yet been implemented because the actual ordinance is still on the books.

For AJ Capital, whose President Hotel conversion would not be allowed with the development cap still in place, time is of the essence. (Only about 19,000 square feet of commercial development can be built under the cap, according to staff. The hotel renovation would encompass more than 50,000 square feet.)

The five council members who want to eliminate the downtown cap — Cory Wolbach, Greg Tanaka, Scharff, Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine — likewise are facing a ticking clock. Wolbach and Scharff will both be off the council next year, and the newly elected member, Alison Cormack, has been less keen than the current pro-growth majority to eliminate the cap. Cormack has not expressed any strong views about the city's commercial restrictions, but when asked by the Weekly about the downtown cap shortly before the election, she said she saw no reason to do away with it.

The fact that the other three council members who will continue on the council, Vice Mayor Eric Filseth, Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou, have all vociferously opposed removing the downtown cap suggests that the new seven-member council of 2019 is much less likely to repeal it than the nine-member council of 2018.

In addition to the political opportunity to get the downtown cap formally removed, AJ Capital faces other opposition on this zoning change: The city's Planning and Transportation Commission considered the repeal of the downtown cap on July 25, and, in a rare move, voted to keep it in place and to punt the issue back to the council.

Commissioners noted that much had changed since January 2017, when elimination of the cap made more sense to some: Housing became a more pressing priority; a ballot measure was proceeding this summer to slash in half the non-residential development allowed by in the Comprehensive Plan (the council ultimately adopted the citizen initiative, obviating the need for a vote on it in November); and the President Hotel tenants were on the verge of eviction.

Chair Ed Lauing said that increasing housing should "take the highest priority."

"That's what we need to work on for the rest of the year and that needs to be done before we look at this thing in front of us tonight in a vacuum," Lauing said. "Because we don't know what the impacts are."

Commissioner Asher Waldfogel questioned the timing of the policy change, which he argued contradicts the council's goals of encouraging housing and protecting neighborhoods from commercial intrusion. Allowing more office space, he noted, is not a stated priority.

"So, we're solving a non-problem today, and it's something that's just wildly contradicted in the Comprehensive Plan," Waldfogel said.

Opposition is also almost certain to come from residents concerned about commercial growth in the city. Several addressed the planning commission in July and cited the plight of the President Hotel tenants. Joe Hirsch, co-founder of the grassroots group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, told the commission that by removing the cap, the commission will become a "part of a process that will, in essence, evict the tenants."

Margaret Heath, a College Terrace resident, called President Hotel "a perfect example of the kind of housing that we need downtown.

"Indeed, there may be other housing units downtown that would also be eliminated," Heath said.

Though the downtown cap is scheduled for council discussion in December, Lait disputed the notion that the city's timing has anything to do with AJ Capital's proposed timelines. City staff has a goal of implementing the Comprehensive Plan directions within a year, Lait said. The plan update, he noted, was adopted in November 2017, and it has taken some time for staff to find a slot on the council agenda to take up the change, he said.

"AJ Capital has its own interests, and they want to see progress be made," Lait said. "That's independent of what we're able to do and willing to do."

Deadlines looming

Up until this week, council members had not publicly acknowledged the existence of AJ Capital's offer to the city or its negotiations. Scharff said Tuesday that he rejected AJ Capital's terms immediately after Franzen sent them. Scharff provided as evidence a Sept. 24 email that he had sent to the tenants' attorney, Scott Emblidge. Referring to AJ Capital, Scharff wrote that he has to "set them straight on the city process."

"They clearly don't understand," Scharff said.

On Monday, Kou alluded to the agreement when she fervently objected to taking up any proposed zone changes, including the grandfathered-facilities clause and the downtown cap, until next year. Considering these changes now, she said, "is going to further mistrust from the general public." She referred obliquely to the deadlines of a downtown property owner, a veiled reference to AJ Capital.

"I find it highly unethical to be doing this, especially with the dates of Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 over our heads in making decisions," Kou said.

Since its Sept. 24 proposal to the city, AJ Capital has scaled back its demands, eliminating references to the rooftop deck and the conditional-use permit to serve alcohol, according to an updated term sheet that was obtained by the Weekly. It still calls for the city to eliminate the downtown cap and the grandfathered facilities clause and to waive in-lieu fees for parking, with a deadline of Dec. 17, the council's last meeting before the council's winter break. If that deadline is met, the term sheet states, tenants will be allowed to live in the building until June 16, 2019. If the deadline is not met, tenants will face a Jan. 31, 2019, eviction.

Lait was cautious when asked whether the confluence of the council's consideration of the two zoning items and the deadlines in the AJ Capital term sheet is a "coincidence," only reasserting that the city would have pursued these changes regardless of the President Hotel project.

"Scheduling this hearing before the date on AJ Capital's term sheet gives the council an opportunity to correct an error and, if approved, extend the time that residents living at the President Hotel can stay in their apartments," Lait wrote in an email, adding that other downtown property owners are "impacted by this inadvertent change."

The publicly noticed hearing, he wrote, will give the council a chance to decide to retain the language, modify it or restore it to the pre-2016 standard.

"In any event, such action would be intentional and transparently discussed in an open public meeting, which to this point has not occurred," Lait wrote.

Keene also rejected the notion that AJ Capital's plans had anything to do with setting the council's agenda. The main consideration when scheduling the grandfathered-facilities issue, he said, is to find a date when the council's busy agenda can accommodate an important item like that.

Keene said he has not seen the AJ Capital's deal with its tenants and was not influenced by it in any way.

"Bringing these items forward before the council goes on a break at the end of the year ... is more about the fact that we have a lot of work we need to do with the council and when we have the opportunities to get stuff on the agenda," Keene told the Weekly.

In fact, by Wednesday, it became increasingly likely that the two zoning items that were scheduled for Dec. 3 would be postponed. The council's discussion on Monday of a different zoning issue was continued to Dec. 3, pushing the "grandfathered facilities" item forward to Dec. 10. And as for the downtown-cap ordinance, it's unlikely the council will be able to consider it before the end of the year, given the council's upcoming agendas, he said.

Scharff, for his part, said that even if staff had decided to put the zoning issues on the agenda to accommodate AJ Capital's deal with tenants, there is nothing improper about that.

He also noted that the council had not discussed the proposed AJ Capital's terms in any closed sessions (though it had talked about AJ Capital's threatened legal challenge).

"I would not say it's inappropriate for the council, in an open process, to make the choice about whether or not to do that now, which would help the tenants, or whether to deal with it after this time frame," Scharff said. "If I had a choice on that, I'd say bring it forward early because I think the council should make those choices."

Dellenbach sees it differently.

"As someone said, 'coincidence' is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys," Dellenbach told the Weekly.

While the council has not entertained AJ Capital's offer, those tenants that remain in the building appear to be honoring their Oct. 26 agreement with the building's new property owner. The Nov. 12 deadline has come and gone and those who remain in the building have been watching their words carefully of late. In June and July, dozens talked about the devastation that the President Hotel's conversion would wreak on their lives. During a June 18 council meeting, tenant Alex Smaliy, who works in tech, said it would be "very difficult to imagine that any one of these residents will find housing in this area."

Another resident, Mary Riordan, told the council that there is nothing in the area anywhere near price range of the President Hotel rents.

"I would have to leave Palo Alto," Riordan said.

But on Oct. 23, just as AJ Capital was finalizing its deal with the residents, Riordan reached out to council members with a different message. In an email, Riordan thanked them for their recent efforts on behalf of renters and made an unusual request.

"Moving forward, I hope that you will assess any proposal with regard to the property at 488 University Ave. solely on its merits," Riordan said.

Watch Weekly journalists discuss this issue on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."

Related content:

President Hotel: Lobbying at a glance

President Hotel: The deal and the deadlines

President Hotel: Developer seeks parking exemptions

Facing tight housing market, tenants worry over uncertain future

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Comments

160 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:05 am

Kudos to the Weekly for exposing what really goes on in City Hall. Despite AJ Capital's initial claim that their conversion of the President Hotel Apartments into a hotel was legal, it appears even they now realize it isn't and so are maneuvering to get various laws changed to suit them.

Our Councilmembers need to show spine and vote no. Existing housing is the least expensive housing we have and we should preserve every bit of it, including the President Hotel. Let's not change a single law if doing so will get rid of tenants and housing.

If AJ Capital threatens to sue the City, that's fine. Our laws preventing the conversion to hotel existed before AJ Capital and its team ever arrived here. They have no right to demand we change our laws to help them earn bigger profits. No one promised them they could have the huge hotel they want. Not only will we win the case and collect legal fees, but other developers who want to strongarm us will learn not to try.


153 people like this
Posted by AP
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:35 am

slimy, slimy, slimy dealings by your pro-growth council members who are supporting the conversion.


131 people like this
Posted by Almost speechless
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:43 am

Almost speechless is a registered user.

Wow.

First, whether the grandfathering clause was originally an "error" or not, it was certainly the law of the land when AJ bought the President Hotel Apartments. No matter what they gleaned from staff discussions or comments, it was up to AJ to do their due diligence and read the law.

Keeping the grandfathering rule preserves housing, even if converted to condos. Getting rid of it assures the loss of 75 downtown units and may incentivize the loss of 85 more at Stalling Court. How could that be the move of a "pro-housing" council?

Second, good grief. Again with secret negotiations with developers and rushed legislation to accommodate their demands?!

Third, what is the point of having a municipal code if we change it at the slightest threat of challenge? Why is the city always afraid to defend (or enforce) its laws in court? Is it lack of confidence in city attorneys? Are they not sufficiently competent to draft ordinance language that can stand up? Sends a terrible message that any developer with a lawyer can just write their own laws.


152 people like this
Posted by Pro-Developer Council
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:50 am

It is wrong to call this Council majority pro-housing. They are really pro-developers.

And for all this, City Manager Keene deserves a retroactive raise and permanent increase in lifetime pension?

Just say no to both.


121 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 2:39 am

Thank you Gennady for looking at this and telling us about it. My first thought after disgust was, how often does staff cooperate with developers, using thin justifications to recommend council to change our laws? No matter, in the case of the President Hotel, that doing so results in displacement of Palo Alto renters and the loss of good affordable workforce housing forever.

We now know that Councilman Scharff engaged in highly inappropriate private talks, consulting with AJ's Franzen, and is now so obviously conflicted that he must be recused from any discussion and vote on the grandfathering, Commercial Cap or parking scheme touching upon the President Hotel that comes before Council. His hubris and poor judgment is shocking.

I noted that former city employees Steve Emslie, and Richard Hackman are AJ's fixers. This adds just another layer of unseemliness to the matter. Soon to retire City Manager Keene hardly deserves his sought for, highly controversial raise given what this article reveals under his watch.

In the agreement AJ made with tenants, the changes in the law AJ needs in order to convert the apartment use of the building back to hotel use, and the dates by which AJ wants to obtain those changes from the city, are included in its tenant agreement. It is stunning to read, seeing how AJ's needs are timed exactly to when the city had agendized 2 or the 3 the changes in the law that AJ wants, for the Dec. 3 city council meeting (which just were rescheduled - I assume due to this article, rather than for the reason stated).

Residents should assume city laws will be righteously enforced. The City Attorney needs to be willing to stand up to developers. If they yell lawsuit, then yell back. If we cave, then we are just a target, known by every bully around who knows they can have their way with us without a fight. We have to stick up for our housing and our renters. Unfortunately the tenants at the President Hotel are mostly gone, and the few left will be soon. But we must save its 75 units of housing, and we can. No parking deals, and enforce the "use" law. Don't lift the downtown Commercial Cap. City council - stand firm.


76 people like this
Posted by Politics & Business As Usual
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2018 at 7:29 am

Complicity + Conspiracy = this particular outcome.

Add doublespeak + vested interests into the equation & now the overall vision of the PACC & City Hall becomes even clearer.

In an effort to procure election/re-election votes, some candidates will say anything to appease certain voter blocs...it's politics as usual & nothing new.

So the questions are...how does one hold these charlatans accountable for their ostensible deeds & how can one detect if they are speaking with a 'forked tongue'?

It's very difficult as the actual results & outcomes often differ from what they want you to believe.


66 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 9:36 am

Annette is a registered user.

Two ages-old philosophies are in play here: 1) the ends justify the means and 2) it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Since this story first broke it has been clear that there must have been things going on behind the scenes. Successful developers are smart and savvy. What are the chances AJ Capital would plunk down $65million w/o being confidant that they could do what they wanted? City Manager Keene's very public assertion that AJCap can proceed "by right" was a big giveaway that this deal was being helped along somehow. It appears that PA has been out-maneuvered and that those who helped this along are relying on the fact that, in time, any public outrage will calm or the issue will be forgotten altogether. It's getting harder and harder to stay on top of ALL the shenanigans, but this one is particularly concerning given its impact on the President Hotel residents and the whole affordable housing issue.

Once again, it's hard to fault the developers here. They are doing what developers do and entering through a door that is controlled by our City Manager and City Council.


14 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 9:42 am

I'm sorry, but negotiating with the city is nothing to get hysterical about. Give me a break. What do you expect the developers to do have an open meeting when trying to come up with a compromise that works? This is the Palo Alto Weekly over exaggerating what's going on here -- it is a normal business practice. Of course the developer wants to get moving on a project that is eating up money.


31 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 9:52 am

Annette is a registered user.

@What - I don't think the developers have done anything wrong. They are entitled to rely on the representations of high ranking City officials such as the City Manager. But the City Manager cannot presume a zone change (or two) b/c zone changes are supposed to be properly noticed and discussed at CC, giving the public a chance to comment. It's a process that often gets protracted, but we are arguably better off with it than without.


76 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 30, 2018 at 10:00 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Good for the Weekly for doing investigative reporting on this sleaziness.

Remember how the city council members voted and vote accordingly next time.

Also, shockingly, City Manager Keene is up for yet another raise 3 weeks before he retires to push up his pension even more. Write to the CC and tell them to oppose it and that we'll be watching how they vote. Web Link


64 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 10:00 am


>> How did this happen? Documents obtained by the Weekly in response to a Public Records Act request

Thank you, Weekly!!

>> Even as AJ Capital was meeting with city staff, it was also having side conversations with at least one council member — and trying to hurry up the process.

>> Councilman Greg Scharff on Sept. 13 to update him about AJ Capital's effort to reach an agreement

>> The correspondence makes clear that Scharff and Franzen held several discussions about the topic in September and that, at least in one case, Franzen was seeking advice from Scharff on how to proceed. The emails indicate that the two talked about the potential agreement on Sept. 23. The following day, Franzen emailed Scharff a document that he said "outlines what I walked you through yesterday in terms of both additional time and financial assistance to the residents, along with what we'll need from the city in terms of project approvals."

>> Franzen told Scharff that he had asked the company's attorney to call the tenants' attorney to walk him through AJ Capital's proposal to tenants, which he said appears to be "very much in line with what they asked for at the end of last week."

>> "We would also like to schedule a call with (City Attorney) Molly Stump, but we'll await your OK before doing so," Franzen wrote.

==

Councilman Greg Scharff is supposed to be representing the interests of us, the citizens of this town. He is supposed to be a policymaker, under the city manager system. Instead, he is shepherding through this proposal like a city staffer working for the city manager, but, with the authority of a councilman. Which he can then turn around and vote on.

Did I misunderstand something?!?!?


47 people like this
Posted by @what
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

@what is a registered user.

It is perfectly fine that developers discuss their plans with city staff. That is not only appropriate but necessary. It is another thing for a developer to be given guidance by a sitting council member in a private forum. The city councillors represent the interests of the residents. They are our elected officials. They should be impartial regarding the projects that come before them, judging them solely on their merits. Scharff should recuse himself from this decision, as even if it cannot be established he has a hard and fast economic interest in this project, he has acted as an advisor and cannot be impartial. Molly Stump has forced councillors to recuse themsleves for far less.


58 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:13 am

Novelera is a registered user.

Huge thanks to the Weekly for exposing these crooked maneuvers! I used to be proud to live in Palo Alto. Council elections were low-key and, at least so it appeared to me, consisted of well meaning candidates who wanted to serve Palo Alto's citizenry.

Now we are inundated with weeks of slick mailers and statements by some candidates that turn out to be the exact opposite of what they do once elected. Several of them, once elected, appear to become tools of moneyed interests.

There's just too much value to the land in this town to keep the greed at bay.

I am disgusted and disillusioned. I wish there were some retribution mechanism available to call Greg Scharff accountable for his double dealing.

And I'm VERY unhappy about the lame duck council rushing to put in place policies that I feel are detrimental to the future of this town.


52 people like this
Posted by SLIME!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:24 am

How scummy. Disgusting the greed and manipulative nature of some (sub) humans.
Glad it wase exposed


48 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:28 am

"There's just too much value to the land in this town to keep the greed at bay."

And that value increases through densification that allows developers to make even more money, and thus they have an incentive to toss out existing long-term residents. Too bad they have sold the very people hurt by it, low-income residents and housing advocates, on believing that allowing density will bring down prices when it just encourages displacement and greed in a built-out place with global demand.


30 people like this
Posted by Cite the Obvious
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

Someone is getting rich behind all of these clandestine dealings and I suspect some of the PACC members along with some CPA administers are lining their pockets.


38 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

In July I met with City Clerk Beth Minor to pull papers to run for City Council (although due to a death in the family, I later withdrew). Because I knew Jim Keene City Manager was retiring, I went by his office -- same floor -- to ask Judy to set up a pow wow, to say goodbye. While there I happened to notice Elmslie and Hackman in a meeting with about 8 people, in the conference room, next to Jim's office. I also noticed that the sign-up sheet outside the door said "President Hotel".
My question is: would we even know that Elmslie and Hackman -- both former staff -- were working for out of town big money interests without dumb luck of citizen activists? (I had posted this info here at the time, and I think sent it to GS)


13 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:29 pm

What a giant waste of everyone’s time...especially the author of this article. Spending countless hours on a witch-hunt and she still got it all wrong. A developer working with the city, ummmm that takes place every single day in every single town in america.... such breaking news...blah, blah, blah. actually, city council should be applauded in this circumstance... the landlord had every right to not renew the tenants leases (these were apartments not condos), but the city council wisely negotiated on the tenants behalf for them to keep their apartments for over a year since the new landlord came in (i believe the tenants were on month to month leases). This was the first hotel every built in Palo Alto, its not like this group is trying to turn it into amusement park or something ridiculous, its honoring the true intention and purpose of the President Hotel. I applaud the city for recognizing the opportunity and taking advantage of it for the best interest of the tenants and the city... dont forget how many jobs and how much tax revenue a hotel will create... anyway, i looked at this groups website and saw they have redeveloped many historic hotels, including the chicago athletic association and the durant in Berkeley,..etc and they do a nice job w these types of properties and i am sure this will be no exception. We should be grateful the city recognizes this and didnt allow a condo developer or office user to buy this and convert it to something other than its intended use.


62 people like this
Posted by Nadia Naik
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Nadia Naik is a registered user.

Gennady - your work on this article is impressive. Great job explaining the issue, citing public records and informing everyone on what's going on. Kudos!!


44 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Steve Emslie sure gets around! Last I heard he was working for Sand Hill Properties/Woodland Park Communities. Is he actually a consultant working for various clients?

David-the journalist is male, not female.

I noticed how cowed many of the tenants seemed to be. That's very sad. Too bad Palo Alto doesn't have the necessary tenant activists to take on these sneaky developers.


32 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Looks like public records requests help further the public interest.


62 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:17 pm

After years of being blamed and shamed residents are starting to wake up and realize that developers, not residents, are responsible for the viscous destruction of affordable housing and the development driven wild escalation of real-estate prices.

The most affordable real-estate we will ever have is the real-estate we already have. Every time a developer touches a piece of real-estate, the cost of real-estate goes up.


64 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Thank you

- Reporter Gennady Sheyner and Palo Alto Weekly for the public service you have provided by researching and publishing this article

- Citizen Jeff Levinsky for your vast knowledge of Palo Alto zoning codes which far exceeds the proficiency of anyone employed by the city

- Citizen Winter Dellenbach for your tireless advocacy for our neighbors of lesser financial means

- Council Member Lydia Kou whose every comment and vote demonstrates her commitment to working solely for the good of the people

Of course, I feel badly for the President residents losing their homes and I am grateful they are receiving some financial assistance to help cushion the blow.

But, there is no excuse that could possibly justify ignoring or modifying city ordinances to benefit developers who want to take away housing from our citizens.

Shame on Greg Scharff, Jim Keene, Jonathan Lait and others who support developers rather than the people.


60 people like this
Posted by Corruption starts at the top
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 2:04 pm

AJ's fixers were hardly just “city employees.”

Steve Emslie was the Deputy City Manager and formerly head of the Planning Dept. He was publicly implicated in advocating for Arrillaga’s monster proposal for 27 University Ave. He resigned shortly after that. (Greg Scharff particularly honored Emslie on Emslie’s retirement.)
Richard Hackman was an assistant to City Manager Keene.

City Manager Keene‘s office is a training ground for developer advocacy and many use the revolving door and go to work for developers. Keene's own behavior is a disgrace.
In addition to his request for a raise immediately before retirement, Keene left himself and his friends at PAF a future funding loophole via the “Empowerment Institute.”

Double dealing and self enrichment marks his tenure. Not loyalty to the city.


20 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Money talked so the tenants will walk.


21 people like this
Posted by @Cite the Obvious
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 3:50 pm

"Someone is getting rich behind all of these clandestine dealings and I suspect some of the PACC members along with some CPA administers are lining their pockets."

Clearly for some there is the possibility of future financial or political gain from serving on the Council, the Planning and Transportation Commission, or being employed by the city.


19 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Ahem - regarding your comment that "developers, not residents, are responsible for the viscous destruction of affordable housing . . . "

I see this differently. Rather than vilifying developers I place responsibility on those who approve projects (CC) and those who pave the way for approval. They are the ones we entrust with the responsibility to strike a balance between commercial development and housing development. Balance is what is lacking.

Also, it's critical that we voters pay attention and cast only informed votes. What's going on now is a direct consequence of the votes we cast for City Council. Democracy plays out one way or the other so voters who want to see a CC that tilts more favorably towards slower or smart growth need to support candidates who align with that approach. Grass roots campaigns still work. Sure, some candidates pivot after they win. There's not much to be done about that - until the next election.


23 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Brown Act, Brown Act, Brown Act


33 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 5:58 pm


You have to watch the PA Weekly webcast about the Secret Dealings over Hotel President Web Link

AJ Capital did this before in New Haven, CT.

Must watch.

Hold the Council Members, City Attorney and Manager accountable to the law! Uphold the law.


31 people like this
Posted by Sheri Furman
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 6:07 pm

Sheri Furman is a registered user.

@Hmmm wrote: "Too bad Palo Alto doesn't have the necessary tenant activists to take on these sneaky developers."

Perhaps not "tenant," but two longtime resident activists provided much of the impetus and info for this story, namely Winter Dellenbach and Jeff Levinsky.


52 people like this
Posted by Almost speechless
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Almost speechless is a registered user.

What's outrageous is that the community begged the City Council (who has been bragging for two years about being pro-housing) to look for ways to preserve existing housing, including this large housing asset in downtown. Instead of standing by current laws that *prevent* conversion of the PH Apartments and pursuing legislation to preserve additional existing housing, the city has been actively negotiating ways to REMOVE barriers to conversion and rush legislative changes through during lame duck session.

Of course it's natural and expected that AJ would seek these very accommodations. The problem is that the city didn't just say no. And worse, that the staff report misleads the public by presenting the grandfathering law amendment as a mere clerical correction, without revealing the housing impact (would newly enable conversion of the 85 unit Stalling Court apartments as well) nor the reasons for urgency (fear of litigation? short term benefit to few remaining PH residents? desire to give former colleagues a feather in their cap? hotel tax revenues? developer favoritism?).

Furthermore, no other solutions are proposed. It isn't even hinted at that the city could change the grandfathering rule to allow conversions between commercial uses (like restaurant to retail for the cheesecake factory) while retaining a requirement that grandfathered *residential* uses cannot be changed.


10 people like this
Posted by Shakedown
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2018 at 6:59 pm

Shakedown is a registered user.

"Extortion is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion."


38 people like this
Posted by An AJ Subcontractor
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Change is often difficult to accept as people tend to get settled-in and establish their respective comfort zones. In time, many will come to appreciate the new President Hotel. Out-of-town guests will soon have the option of selecting either the Stanford Court or The President for an exclusive downtown Palo Alto lodging experience.

The new layout will have a breathtaking interior and there are discussions underway to offer a world class dining experience. By combining the old with the new, The President Hotel will take Palo Alto stylishly into the new Millenium and beyond. Come and be a part of it!









33 people like this
Posted by @david
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:40 pm

This may be news to you, but Palo Alto doesn’t need more jobs. We already have a 3:1 job/housing imbalance. More jobs just exacerbates the situation by increasing the numerator and reducing the denominator. I also doubt the additional hotel tax, which will no doubt be a fraction of residents’ property tax, is worth the additional strain on an infrastructure that is already operating under duress.

This is no win for Palo Alto


33 people like this
Posted by @AJ sub contractor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:50 pm

The guests who stay at these hotels aren’t visiting local residents. They are visiting downtown businesses, stanford or some other commercial enterprise in SV. Guests of residents stay in their homes.

We don’t need another high end hotel restaurant downtown- evidence, Nobu.


10 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:54 pm

Sheri Furman - I'm well aware of what they've both done, but it's clearly not enough. Tenants have to learn to be their own saviors by organizing and seeking expert advice. The horse is out of the barn, unfortunately, and now it's clear there's been fraternizing and strategizing to make that happen. It's a shame.

Palo Alto tenants could've worked with Tenants Together years ago. Maybe tenants of other large multifamily dwellings will read this and contact TT to learn how to organize and increase their protections. They obviously can't rely on their shameless elected representatives to actually represent their interests.


29 people like this
Posted by @Aj Subcontractor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:58 pm

So Subcontractor,

Where do you live? How many employees will you have on the job site? Where do these employees live? Where will they park? If we were not displacing 75+ people, and adding to the jobs housing imbalance, I would be more enthusiastic. But, we have have to make up those units, and then some. I like cool, downtown hotels, but...I like my neighbors more. This is great for the businesses (Palantir, Mongo DB, Etc) downtown, for the people who live here, not so much. And, I suspect, the same people who will advocate for these concessions, will be advocating for emergency measures to combat the housing crisis.


25 people like this
Posted by Lait has to go!
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Jonathan Lait is at the heart of nearly every screw up the city has made since he came on board. I hope Ed Shikada makes it right and shows him the door on day 1. We can't afford to keep Lait in this important leadership role.


51 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2018 at 1:07 am

Great job by Gennady Sheyner and the Weekly to get this in print ahead of the council meeting with the proposed changes to the municipal code.


40 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2018 at 3:28 am

So disgusted with both City Hall and AJ company with their shenanigans that if The President is allowed to be turned back into a hotel and high-end restaurant I will boycott that building. And, any City Council member who votes for code changes to allow this proposed fiasco will not only never get my vote but neither will I ever vote for anyone they endorse for any public office.

Good job Weekly!


12 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of University South
on Dec 1, 2018 at 8:08 am

[Post removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2018 at 8:58 am

I believe city manager keene is the responsible party.
He is still calling the shots and has been willing in the past to sell the city....think 101 university and the Palantir
Give away of a public park for two weeks for their company party.
Keene is perfectly capable of ignoring or making up laws to suit his personal needs.
We don’t yet know the full story of who did what but Keene calls the shots.
Any council member willing to give him a raise at this point should be escorted out the front door along with him.


29 people like this
Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2018 at 8:59 am

Once again there is money, a lot of money, to be made by evicting the tenants of the President on University Ave. What happens to these displaced tenants? Where do they go to live?
Palo Alto needs more housing. The President is an ideal place. They are close to all public transportation, city services, and shops. The shops on the ground floor of the President are the most interesting in the City. They too should be grandfathered.
Instead of trying to squeeze below market rate housing into R1 neighborhoods, put more housing downtown. Most certainly this includes NOT eliminating existing grandfathered housing units in Palo Alto. We also need more and better shops downtown that offer a broad variety of services and goods for sale. We do not need fitness places so that people exercise in front of large glass windows. Fitness places belong on side streets or in areas where there is ample parking. I do not want to pass windows of people exercising on machines when I am shopping. Put these in a cluster in places such as Palo Alto Square.
Moving tenants at any time is unpleasant, but forcibly moving people out during the Holiday season is cruel.
There are many other grandfathered buildings downtown. Once the President Hotel is gone, it will be open season on other such places, including the largest senior residence, which is also downtown.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2018 at 9:10 am

Meant to say 27 University


23 people like this
Posted by @Anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Don't forget Keene cosied up up to Arriaga, wealthiest developers in the US, to sell him 7 acres of Foothill's Park because it hadn't yet been "dedicated." Nice deal to be wooed by those in high places who want favors from government officials! Oh I forgot, that goes on all the time at city hall.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 12:34 pm

It's The Money, Stupid - apologies to Bill Clinton (1992)

Follow The Money Trail - "Deep Throat" (1974)

There Is No New thing Under The Sun - Ecclesiastes (timeless)


18 people like this
Posted by Looking Forward to New Hotel
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm

When visiting Stanford University we usually stay at the Stanford Court Hotel and all things considered, it will be nice to have another option when bookings are tight in downtown Palo Alto. That said, we are looking forward to staying the new remodeled President Hotel. A touch of yesteryear with a modern touch.

While it is unfortunate that some long-term residents will be displaced, the sign does say 'hotel' on the outside and given the time that many have lived there, most have had their stay and it's time to move on.

Here in Orange County, we do not have these kinds of controversies. If one cannot afford to live in Newport Beach, they simply relocate to a neighboring community.
The PACC seems to be looking ahead to the future and further development projects always encompass that vision.

Since The President Hotel is already an existing building, it's not like the Palo Alto downtown landscape is being modified or altered to reflect a drastic change in outwards appearance. The only difference will be internal with shorter term guests replacing those who have resided there for decades.

Since the displaced tenants are receiving anywhere from $7-$17K to relocate, they should be grateful for this gesture as most other landlords are not required to remunerate those who they are evicting.

Palo Alto has always been a left-leaning community and to condemn the PACC or an enterprising developer for this change of hotel residency is really quite petty.


20 people like this
Posted by they simply relocate to a neighboring community.
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Unfortunately, we have a narrow strip of land, hemmed in by bay and mountains, with incredible amounts of domestic and foreign money chasing luxury housing in Palo Alto and nearby communities. Affordable communities now involve hours of commuting on already clogged roads, and an almost complete lack of convenient public transport for most people. With offices now accommodating three to four times the number of past employees, (remember big desks, file cabinets, private offices?) and poor council planning, we now have a jobs to housing imbalance of 3:1 in a pretty much built out community.


23 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

@HeartlessOrangeCountyLibertarian aka@LookingForwar,
Um...these people are friends and neighbors and part of our community.
There are plenty of other places for people like you to stick your capital.


18 people like this
Posted by An AJ Subcontractor
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2018 at 8:31 am

>>While it is unfortunate that some long-term residents will be displaced, the sign does say 'hotel' on the outside and given the time that many have lived there, most have had their stay and it's time to move on.

From what I understand, AJ and the City of Palo Alto are negotiating a very nice relocation severance package with reduced rent and an extended departure date. What more can these tenants ask for?

>>Since The President Hotel is already an existing building, it's not like the Palo Alto downtown landscape is being modified or altered to reflect a drastic change in outwards appearance.

Correct. As part of the 'dream team' of contracted consultants, we will ensure that The President Hotel maintains it classic exterior appearance and lines. But once inside, guests will experience the ultimate in a hotel experience. The interior will be totally remodeled to reflect the amenities connoseurs of fine dining and lodgers of high-end hotels have come to expect. Even Palo Alto residents will enjoy a visit to the new President Hotel as they are always welcome.

While it is unfortunate that the current residents will have to eventually depart the premises, the 'new look' interior of the revamped President Hotel will be a far cry from what it is today. Palo Alto has become an upscale city and I am amazed that there is so much resistance to the minor redevelopment of an existing older building. I am sure that the original designer would be proud of these internal modifications which will exceed the demanding criteria of discriminating guests and fine diners alike.








27 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 9:01 am

AJ subcontractor,

You pose an interesting dilemma, to envision a renovated fancy hotel or Palo Alto neighbors being displaced and housing stock reduced which presumably I may be asked to pay for...and also for parking concessions for a hotel that I am welcome to go enjoy a meal or drink at in the future.

Not much of a dilemma for me. I don’t need or want another hotel in town fancy or not. I would rather see Palo Alto put up a fight and for sure Council should NOT NOT NOT eliminate the downtown cap. I would be picketing to recall anyone who votes for that.

Actually the last thing I’m thinking is fancy, you see green I see red.



8 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 9:07 am

Not to mention, it was not up to the President Hotel tenants to dictate what a fair outcome should be here.

Or for money settlements using Palo Alto zoning to be exchanged and arranged behind closed doors.

AJ is likely not the only one who would want to sue here. There must be laws that prevent this type thing or jail or something when smut like this happens.


17 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2018 at 9:28 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Watcher. I watched the Behind the Scenes segment. I am struck by the part in which the existence of the troublesome grandfathering clause is attributed to a cut and paste error. This was referred to as a "fortuitous mistake". Maybe it was. Regardless, the timing of the push to correct that error is either a coincidence (if you favor the correction being done now) or something less benign (if you question the timing).

Value-wise, land here is a motherlode. Abundance wise, it is obviously limited, a fact that serves to multiply its value. Developers must see Palo Alto as Gold Country. Of course they hire good lawyers and informed consultants to help them navigate and, if necessary, circumvent, troubled waters. Given what's at stake, clerical errors that have high value impact simply should not happen. Such things really do matter; a perfect example of how is the clerical error that resulted in Vail gaining ownership of Park City a few years ago.

We supposedly have the best people on the job at City Hall that money can buy. So where's the oversight against such errors? Even if our land use laws are arcane, it is the job of our City Manager, City Attorney, and Planning Department to fully understand and fairly apply those laws. It is easy to revile the "Palo Alto Process" but it has value as a "check and balance" against things happening that should not.





20 people like this
Posted by @AJ subcontractor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2018 at 9:37 am

I just spent 2 minutes looking up staff to room ratios at luxury hotels. Industry standard seems to be 1+ staff person for every room. So, the President Hotel will not only need to park guest cars, it will need to park something like 30 employee cars per shift. Of course, it would be helpful to have numbers for Epiphany, probably the closest competitor downtown, but, 30 staff spread over three shifts is just not true.

And, AJ, you don't live in PA, this project has externalities that effect all Palo Alto residents. You will profit, we will foot the bill.


12 people like this
Posted by Time to Get This Project Underway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 1:36 pm

>But despite the public outcry and the council's desires to see more housing built and to prevent tenants from being evicted, the hotel conversion proposal has somehow picked up momentum since the summer.

>Dozens of units are now vacant; the tenants are no longer speaking out; and the city is preparing to consider in the coming weeks two zoning changes that would pave the way for the hotel.

Good to see that some progress is actually being made. Since the die has been cast, this issue should be closed.

But alas, some Palo Alto residents are still making a fuss despite the fact that they (1) were not displaced residents of the hotel, (2) are not directly affected by this undertaking, (3) are not offering any proactive housing solutions to any of the displaced hotel residents, (4) are overly concerned about parking when they themselves contribute to the overall problem as well, (5) are outraged over 'secret meetings' involving private property (which are none of their business to begin with), and (6) seem to forget that renters are renters and not owners of of any given property.

Mind-boggling to say the least.




32 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

We are all effected by shady dealings by our local officials and politicians, esp. since we'll all be asked to bear the cost of the hotel's desired parking exemptions, to provide housing to make up for that just lost and because the 75 tenants are/were long-time members of our community regardless of whether they owned or rented.

What's mind-boggling is your defense of this type of shady dealing.


21 people like this
Posted by Time to Get This Project Underway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

>...we'll all be asked to bear the cost of the hotel's desired parking exemptions, to provide housing to make up for that just lost and because the 75 tenants are/were long-time members of our community regardless of whether they owned or rented.

Seriously? You (1) are personally going to bear the cost for parking exemptions?
(2) are personally responsible for providing housing to make up that just lost, and (3) have a personal sense of obligation regarding the 75 tenants now displaced from the President Hotel?

It all sounds very humanitarian but the chances are these caring thoughts will pass as you and yours are enjoying the various pastimes of the holiday season.

Chalk it up to human nature and the age-old adage, "Charity begins at home."

"Business as usual" can also be added to the list.


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Seriously yes. Every taxpayer who's now stuck paying for parking permits while being over-run by commuters, every taxpayer stuck picking up an increasing share of taxes while businesses' share of taxes decline, every taxpayer whose intelligence gets insulted by arguments that businesses like hotels like the Epiphany/Nobu are totally car-light with not a single guest, diner, staffer driving a car that needs parking while the President Hotel's new owners want a $13,000,000 parking exemption....


29 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 3:47 pm

TO: AJ SUB CONTRACTOR Yes, PA could get another expensive, world class hotel..... and why is this important to our community and every day life?
TO:LOOKING FORWARD TO A NEW HOTEL - maybe Newport Beach residents like living with their own kind.....Many many people in Palo Alto appreciate and want to protect diversity..... please stay in Newport and read the mags that list the latest hotel. There will always be a latest and in 6-10 months the new President's Hotel will be passed over for the next new hotel What qualifies you to know what Palo Alto "needs"
To: TIME TO GET THIS PROJECT GOING- It is sad you feel so entitled and complacent when the CC and CM break the laws and go behind the backs of the residents (pro and con) that care what is legal
To the mid/low income residents, I am sorry you felt that there were no options. I wonder why it is not illegal for AJ to offer the tenants dollars provided the city will go along with wht they (AJ) want. Why are former employes with inside knolwdge of how the city works, not required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to what they were privey to as an employee. Why would anyone on the CC even consider giving the CM (and in turn his wife should he pass) a raise that will last both their life times. And, last but not least, thank our lucky stars Greg Scharff did NOT get elected to the Open Space Board......he has shown his colors a few times to many to be trusted with that (or any) position related to govt, developers, or environment.




30 people like this
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 4:12 pm

You clearly don't know much about how Palo Alto is financed.

First, in Palo Alto residents pay 75% of the property taxes. The 25% that comes from commercial properties decreases every year because of Prop 13 loopholes that can allow commercial property to change hands without a new property tax assessment. Second, public parking garages are paid for mainly by residents. Third, we now have the added cost of having to buy parking permits so we, guests, home help, etc. can park somewhere in the neighborhood. Plus paying to administer the program and employees with vehicles to patrol the streets. And if you are wondering, no, parking fine revenue is negligible.

Yes, we do like our hotel tax, but in this case it will come nowhere near covering the cost to us of such a grossly under-parked luxury hotel.


26 people like this
Posted by A View From Outside Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2018 at 5:05 pm

> Every taxpayer who's now stuck paying...

Are these taxes only exclusive to Palo Alto residents or also inclusive of guests to our fair city? Sales and hotel taxes + parking lot fees are paid for by outside guests as well. No one gets out alive when it comes to paying taxes.

> Many many people in Palo Alto appreciate and want to protect diversity.

According to Wikipedia, Palo Alto is 62% White/17% Asian/6% Hispanic/2% African American/.2% Native American/.2% Pacific Islander. Looks like Palo Alto is primarily well-to-do White/Asian at approximately 80%. That's socio-economic diversity? Mid to low income minorities receive no breaks in Palo Alto.

When Palo Altans themselves start driving their cars less and begin opening their doors (and houses) to the lower socio-economics ranks, we'll talk.

Until then, this conversation is going nowhere.


24 people like this
Posted by downtown development
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2018 at 5:54 pm

"or also inclusive of guests to our fair city? Sales and hotel taxes + parking lot fees"

Doesn't make sense for residents to allow an increase in commercial uses downtown for new hotels and offices and then spend millions of tax dollars to provide parking because these entities don't begin to cover their parking needs. As much as a few wealthy developers would like residents too. There are other places in the city for hotels and the research park is not fully developed.



31 people like this
Posted by @ view from the outside
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm

@ view from the outside is a registered user.

your numbers aren't up to date

according to the American Community Survey (census) we're 33% Asian not 17%. We're also only 55% home ownership - so as far as the peninsula is concerned we're one of the more diverse cities.

Also the residents aren't actually the ones creating the traffic burden. It's driven by our 3:1 job/housing imbalance, one of the highest on the peninsula. It's all the workers commmuting to and from the city. It's the reason why everyone hates the idea of the President's conversion. We don't want to lose housing and create more jobs. That's the last thing we need. We'd like to ship some of our jobs elsewhere. The sales tax and property tax we get from businesses is a fraction of the sales and property tax paid by residents. A city needs some business, but Palo Alto has created a recipe for disaster with our extreme, because there are no decent public transport solutions. People can't get out of their cars because there is no viable solution.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2018 at 7:24 am

Posted by A View From Outside Palo Alto, a resident of another community

>>When Palo Altans themselves start driving their cars less and begin opening their doors (and houses) to the lower socio-economics ranks, we'll talk.

>> Until then, this conversation is going nowhere.

Another illogical straw man. So, until we residents "open our doors and houses" to--who? how? in what way? -- you will carry on converting existing lower-income housing to luxury hotels?!??!


26 people like this
Posted by A View From Outside Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2018 at 8:11 am

> according to the American Community Survey (census) we're 33% Asian not 17%.

OK. We'll dispel Wikipedia. Now according to City-Data...it's 55% white/32% Asian = 87% with a 1% African-American + 7% Hispanic population. That's not saying a whole lot for ethnic diversity in Palo Alto.

www.city-data.com/city/Palo-Alto-California.html

Most of the displaced President Hotel residents are probably representative of this 55% white majority (give or take a few minority tenants) and the empathy factor is seemingly being conveyed by various anti-development Palo Altans who are not comprised of the minority demographic.

> So, until we residents "open our doors and houses" to--who? how? in what way? -- you will carry on converting existing lower-income housing to luxury hotels?!??!

Advocating lower income housing for only a select few (i.e. the President Hotel residents) is limited in scope. What about affordable housing in Palo Alto for other ethnic groups as well?

This issue is centered around lower-income white residents being displaced by higher-income hotel lodgers (who we will assume will be primarily white) and ironically, the entire business proceedings were coordinated by guess what group?

This presumed 'compassion' for lower-income renters has its own built-in 'reservations' so to speak. So in answer to your question, until anti-development Palo Altans press for lower rents for all income levels, these controversial development/conversion issues will continue to persist.

Then again, maybe perhaps it is the intent of the majority demographic to keep others out based on income level...with some 'exceptions' of course.

As aforementioned, this conversation is going nowhere.


5 people like this
Posted by demographics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2018 at 9:05 am

A view outside,

Is your point that white people are discriminating against other white well to do people?

diversity won’t change by making expensive condos available, it will attract the same demographic we have now


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2018 at 9:43 am

Posted by A View From Outside Palo Alto, a resident of another community

>> Most of the displaced President Hotel residents are probably representative of this 55% white majority (give or take a few minority tenants) and the empathy factor is seemingly being conveyed by various anti-development Palo Altans who are not comprised of the minority demographic.

"the" minority demographic ?

>> Advocating lower income housing for only a select few (i.e. the President Hotel residents) is limited in scope. What about affordable housing in Palo Alto for other ethnic groups as well?

I haven't seen a single post by anyone here advocating lower income housing for "only a select few" of any "demographic".

What I have seen is a series of straw-man arguments that conclude by advocating turning existing low-income rental housing into luxury hotels, creating more jobs, and requiring more parking than currently exists. -Exactly the opposite- of the policies that supposedly are advocated by public officials and "housing advocates". -Opposite-.

>> This presumed 'compassion' for lower-income renters has its own built-in 'reservations' so to speak.

I haven't seen a single person here advocate for housing "reserved" for a particular group, other than the "group" of people who have less money.

>> As aforementioned, this conversation is going nowhere.

You still haven't explained how removing existing lower-income rental housing and replacing it with luxury hotels (or condos, or office space, or ... ) improves the housing situation in Palo Alto. We've already seen a variation of this with the former Casa Olga.


12 people like this
Posted by Grow With the Changes
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2018 at 1:38 pm

> I haven't seen a single person here advocate for housing "reserved" for a particular group, other than the "group" of people who have less money.

Yes. A particular (aka specific) demographic group that happens to have less money. The ostensible mindset of the anti-development mindset knows no boundaries when it comes to concealing the actual prejudices and/or preferential treatment involved.

Why all these alligator tears for the evicted tenants of the President Hotel? They're getting upwards of $20,000 for departing and if they're fiscally savvy, they'll use this money to relocate in a more affordable locale.

Or is it simply because having a revitalized downtown hotel will cramp some people's style and sensibilities? Or rather self-serving sensitivities?

How many Palo Alto residents actually rely on the downtown area as a primary shopping district? Very few as there are minimal stores to serve their shopping needs. Downtown PA has become a premier dining district and so a top-flight hotel fits right into the University Avenue landscape. And besides, the original building is being kept intact and it won't clash visually with most of the older buildings along University Avenue...unlike some of the newer proposed architectural eyesores currently under consideration.

This is much ado about nothing. Palo Alto is simply moving ahead with the future.


16 people like this
Posted by University Avenue Revitalized?
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2018 at 1:45 pm

University Avenue needs to be revitalized??? Only this hotel can do that???

Sounds more like self-interest to me. Nothing wrong with that, but don't for a minute believe that your self-interest is the same as the people who live here.


12 people like this
Posted by Grow With the Changes
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2018 at 2:07 pm

> University Avenue needs to be revitalized??? Only this hotel can do that???

You must have misread my earlier quote...."a revitalized downtown hotel" (aka remodeled).

As for 'self-interest', no one can claim absolvement as both the developers and anti-development factions have a stake in this issue. One group wants to profit on a development project while the other wants to ensure future residential sale profits by restricting growth.

The displaced President Hotel residents (regardless of demographics) are merely being used as pawns by both factions...(1) a quick and easy pay-off to depart VS (2) contrived boo-hoo sentiments by those striving to protect their own self-interests.

Perhaps only an outsider can see what's really going on.

Now play nice kids.


19 people like this
Posted by Self interest?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Developer self interest in conversion = $$$$$

Resident self interest in non conversion = avoid adding to traffic burden; avoid adding to parking burden; avoid adding to job/housing imbalance ; maintain some semblance of a resident community rather than an office park.

One AJ sub contractor has already pointed out that university ave is not there for the residents. That is there to serve the businesses. This is what it has come to, but how crazy is that???

This is our city! We are paying the lion’s share of the taxes. Yet our interests are not represented. Someone needs a reminder that it is we, the residents, who are underwriting this show.


12 people like this
Posted by Time to Get Real
a resident of University South
on Dec 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Reminder...It is the called the President Hotel and not the President Apartments.

Now if any of the tenants wish to remain there, they are probably more than welcome to...at premium hotel rates.

After all and as many of the so-called residentialists have emphasized, not everyone can expect to reside in Palo Alto.

What makes the former President Hotel tenants so special and/or eligible to receive preferntial treatment?


16 people like this
Posted by What makes it so special?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2018 at 7:12 pm

A precedent of 37 years during which the ‘hotel’ has acted as a residential apartment complex. In other land use scenarios a precedent of that duration would not so easily be overturned


18 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2018 at 7:33 pm

Posted by Time to Get Real, a resident of University South

>> What makes the former President Hotel tenants so special and/or eligible to receive preferntial treatment?

"Each and every one is special", or whatever the elf says in the movie "Elf". But, that isn't the point. The point is that it already is affordable housing now, and, the plan is, to convert it to a high-end unaffordable hotel like the Nobu, and, add more jobs, incrementally increasing the jobs/housing imbalance. How does that square with your desire to improve the jobs/housing imbalance?


8 people like this
Posted by Time to Get Real
a resident of University South
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:59 am

> Reminder...It is the called the President Hotel and not the President Apartments.
>> A precedent of 37 years during which the ‘hotel’ has acted as a residential apartment complex. In other land use scenarios a precedent of that duration would not so easily be overturned.

OK. So the rules were bent 37 years ago. Now they are being 'bent' back to the hotel's original intended use.

>>> The point is that it already is affordable housing now, and, the plan is, to convert it to a high-end unaffordable hotel like the Nobu...How does that square with your desire to improve the jobs/housing imbalance?

Everyday life will always be out of balance. As for the affordability factors, guests who can afford to stay at the revised President Hotel will, those who cannot won't. If you can't afford a Mercedes, sometimes you have to settle for a Toyota. The same goes for choice of housing locales. The soon to be displaced residents of the President Hotel are simply making way for the new. It wasn't a condominium where people actually owned the units...they were renters and it's no different than living in any other apartment complex whether in Palo Alto or elsewhere.

As for improving the jobs/housing imbalance, folks who cannot afford to live in Palo Alto will just have to live elsewhere. That's what the anti-development faction seems to be telling the disgruntled Millennials. The same applies to the former residents of the President Hotel.






Like this comment
Posted by Self-Interests Are Universal
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:51 pm

> Developer self interest in conversion = $$$$$

As Petula Clark once sang, "It's a sign of the times".

It's like in-laws. Once you invite them in, good luck getting rid of them.

>> Resident self interest in non conversion = avoid adding to traffic burden; avoid adding to parking burden; avoid adding to job/housing imbalance ; maintain some semblance of a resident community rather than an office park.

The more recent Palo Alto residents (from around the mid 1980s to the present) had a major hand in creating the above 'problems' and now they're complaining about it. Typical.

It's like not taking any responsibility for filing up a garbage can.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Posted by Self-Interests Are Universal, a resident of Menlo Park

>> > Developer self interest in conversion = $$$$$

>> As Petula Clark once sang, "It's a sign of the times".

Self-interest is (almost) universal, but, I still expect the CC to set policy and then expect the staff who work for them and us to operate with a -level playing field-. Palo Alto was known for good government onceuponatime.


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Petula Clark also sang "Downtown" Web Link but that was then and this is now.


24 people like this
Posted by downtown development
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 2:04 pm

"The more recent Palo Alto residents (from around the mid 1980s to the present) had a major hand in creating the above 'problems' and now they're complaining about it. Typical."

Residents were too busy getting on with their lives and trusting the council and city manager and staff to run the city on their behalf. Instead, council majorities, with one two year exception, were mostly busy encouraging office development. Which, since Facebook first rented office space downtown is now occupied by about three to four times as densely as was originally intended for, more recent developments excepted as designed to do so. Remember the tv and news coverage of their early downtown offices, hallways, and stairwells, knee deep in young techies working on laptops. Crammed around tables, no need for desks, file cabinets, etc. etc. Commercial property owners are making a mint from leasing their office space to companies that shoehorn in ever increasing numbers of employees.

The only thing most residents are possibly guilty of is believing campaign rhetoric and not paying attention.


2 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 5, 2018 at 11:34 am

Eric is a registered user.

+1 for everything said by Disgusted up top!


2 people like this
Posted by Downtown
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 5, 2018 at 7:13 pm

> Petula Clark also sang "Downtown" Web Link but that was then and this is now.

Yes. Downtown Palo Alto is no longer a major shopping district. It is an entertainment and dining area combined with various office complexes.

And in some ways it's for the better...there are fewer auto repair shops and no more car dealerships mixed in with the cityscape. Jackson's Auto Laundry (where people came to have their engines cleaned) is gone along with dry cleaners dumping chemicals down the drain and into the bay.

Now it's a venue for crowds and foot traffic...I just stay clear of downtown PA these days as there is no real reason for me to go there anymore.

The President Hotel issue doesn't bother me as it's simply not a part of my 'downtown' reality.





6 people like this
Posted by Get over it
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 6:44 am

OMG Palo Altans! This kind of dealing is everyday and normal practice in a city. Did you all forget you were trying to be a "city" or just a burb masquerading as one? You want a 3:1 jobs ratio for a town of 60,000? You know that's crazy right? And by the way the is the root of most of your problems. You want all that tax revenue but you don't want to take building housing seriously or deal with the realities that come with "progress" Cities change zoning all the time so developers can build, nothing unusual about that. The whole situation in Palo Alto has been building for a lifetime, you all got what you asked for and now you have to live with it. Grow up and decide what you are going to be and stop complaining.
On a side note, Downtown Palo Alto has not truely been a retail center since Stanford Shopping Center was built, it killed downtown Palo Alto, and it didn't really start coming back until the late 80's. I lived the majority of my life in that town, 4th generation family, I cannot recognize it today and mostly I am talking about the culture, it has gone to hell. Used to be a wonderful nuturing intellectual community. Palo Alto peaked in the late 90's it has been a steady decline in culture ever since. The golden age is done and over.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:38 am

Posted by Get over it, a resident of Crescent Park

>> OMG Palo Altans! This kind of dealing is everyday and normal practice in a city.

Special deals and an un-level playing field? It may be "everyday and normal practice" in corrupt cities throughout the world, but, Palo Alto used to be better than that.

>> You want a 3:1 jobs ratio for a town of 60,000?

"You" who? There has been a major disconnect between the residents and the CC for quite some time.

>> You want all that tax revenue

When you look at the "cost of everything" including infrastructure, city government salaries, police, and fire to support all the downtown office space, it is a net negative. We can no longer "afford" effective traffic enforcement and city pool lifeguards. The only thing that is keeping the city on the up side is real estate taxes from residential real estate. But, we still don't get listened to.

>> Cities change zoning all the time so developers can build, nothing unusual about that.

If it is backdoor, building-by-building, exception-by-exception, then, it is -corrupt-. The CC should set the rules and make everyone abide by them. That is the proverbial "level playing field".

>> The whole situation in Palo Alto has been building for a lifetime,

Your "lifetime" here depends on how old you are. Things were sometimes antagonistic, but, manageable, until ca. 1998-- 20 years ago.

>> you all got what you asked for and now you have to live with it.

No, we keep getting what we didn't ask for. We keep getting specifically what we asked not to have-- massive traffic and parking problems.

>> Grow up and decide what you are going to be and stop complaining.

"Suck it up." Yeah, sure. Deal with it. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

The bottom line is that special deals and favors have been gushing out of city hall in recent years. Illegal or not, it is violating the public trust. You are telling us to lower our expectations. In a word-- "no".

-No more office space.-


10 people like this
Posted by It's Too Late to Go Back
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 6, 2018 at 9:10 am

All of these complainers should have addressed the PA development issue in its nascent stages rather than harp about it now.

But they were all too busy at the time when they could have been voicing their opinions and dissent by attending PACC and various Planning Commission meetings.

Now they have decided to become 'civic-minded' with their preservationist concerns and whining.

It's too late...you let it happen. Now either live with the consequences or relocate to somewhere else. No one's tearing down those existing office complexes or high-rise housing developments in PA to suit your fancy. If anything, there will be more of them along the way.


14 people like this
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:05 am

@getoverit, from my earlier post

"You clearly don't know much about how Palo Alto is financed. Or maybe you do.

First, in Palo Alto residents pay 75% of the property taxes. The 25% that comes from commercial properties decreases every year because of Prop 13 loopholes that can allow commercial property to change hands without a new property tax assessment. Second, public parking garages are paid for mainly by residents. Third, we now have the added cost of having to buy parking permits so we, guests, home help, etc. can park somewhere in the neighborhood. Plus paying to administer the program and employees with vehicles to patrol the streets. And if you are wondering, no, parking fine revenue is negligible.

Yes, we do like our hotel tax, but in this case it will come nowhere near covering the cost to us of such a grossly under-parked luxury hotel."

And who says there haven't been a group of Palo Altons hard at work for years to moderate the pro-developer majority council members enthusiasm for office growth and conveniently overlooking the impacts. Even our soon to retire city manager admitted to the council, when pressed, that office development is a net loss to the city because they don't pay their way.


6 people like this
Posted by Throw In the White Towel...It's Over
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2018 at 3:28 pm

> And who says there haven't been a group of Palo Altons hard at work for years to moderate the pro-developer majority council members enthusiasm for office growth and conveniently overlooking the impacts.

Given the outcome, they were obviously ineffectual in their efforts to 'moderate' PA development.


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