News

Editorial: A stealth agenda for President Hotel

Eleventh-hour move by city staff and a lame-duck council may decide fate of President Hotel

In a perfect demonstration of what is wrong with Palo Alto city government these days, an attempt to sneak through a series of actions that would pave the way for the new owners of the President Hotel Apartments to proceed with their hotel project has quietly appeared as the last agenda item on Monday night's penultimate City Council meeting of the year.

With an agenda description that is indecipherable and doesn't mention the relevance to the President Hotel proposal, the city staff is asking the council to dispense with normal review by the Planning and Transportation Commission and rush to adopt changes to the zoning ordinance that were secretly requested by A.J. Capital, the boutique hotel company that is in the process of evicting the last remaining tenants from the President.

The staff report buries any reference to the President Hotel controversy and neglects to disclose that each of the proposed zoning changes was demanded by A.J. Capital as part of a scheme that also sought to squelch continued opposition to the conversion by the remaining tenants.

It also deceptively attempts to hide the real intention by citing as an example a restaurant wanting to convert to a retail store, as if that was a pressing problem deserving urgent council action. The proposed new ordinance isn't about restaurants or retail stores. It's about the President Hotel Apartments.

According to reporting by Weekly reporter Gennady Sheyner, who obtained previously undisclosed city documents and emails through a Public Records Act request, A.J. Capital has pressured the city staff to get the zoning changes approved by Dec. 18, the day after the last City Council meeting of the year. And for reasons that no one has yet explained, the staff has followed A.J.'s roadmap to a T.

Over the last two months, with the city staff's knowledge and after private consultations with Councilman Greg Scharff, A.J. quietly approached all the remaining tenants in the apartment building offering them a deal that would give them several months of additional occupancy at reduced rent, plus additional relocation money, in exchange for their silence, but conditioned on the council approving by Dec. 18 the needed zoning changes that would allow A.J. to move forward unimpeded in its conversion of the 75-unit apartment building back to a hotel.

The zoning changes needed by A.J. Capital are the lifting of the current cap on downtown commercial development and the elimination of "grandfathered building" provisions that prevent a change in the use of a property that is not in compliance with today's zoning rules. What's more, A.J. wants an exemption from parking requirements.

There is legitimate room for debate on each of these proposed changes had they come before the city in an appropriate and transparent way, followed normal procedures for consideration by the planning commission and absent a manipulative tenant agreement designed to take advantage of and buy the silence of the tenants. The involvement of former senior-level city staff members as paid consultants to A.J. Capital has done nothing but raise suspicions of deals crafted behind the closed doors of City Hall conference rooms.

A disingenuous attempt has been made to suggest it's merely a coincidence that these zoning changes were scheduled for the final meetings of the year while citizens are distracted by the holidays and a new seven-member City Council potentially less sympathetic to A.J. Capital will be seated in January. (One, the downtown cap, has been moved to a January agenda, according to City Manager Jim Keene.)

City staff, Mayor Liz Kniss and whomever else was involved were wrong to rush this proposal forward and allow the city to become a supporting actor to the three-way deal A.J. Capital is trying to pull off. Instead of facilitating a conversion in use that will sacrifice 75 units of housing for the creation of another hotel, the city should instead be taking advantage of the current zoning rules to block this conversion.

Unfortunate as it is that current tenants are being displaced, earlier council action already requires that substantial relocation assistance be paid to them by the new owner. If the City Council truly believes that it didn't go far enough in helping evicted tenants, it would be far smarter for the city to pay those few remaining tenants additional relocation benefits than to give A.J. Capital the gift, worth millions of dollars, of zoning changes that will enable the elimination of badly needed housing.

This staff proposal should never have made it onto the council's agenda and should be pulled or resoundingly rejected. The city doesn't need another late-night controversial decision in the waning days of the current council. If nothing else, the results of the Nov. 6 election should have made that very clear.

Related content:

Watch or listen to the Nov. 30 episode of the "Behind the Headlines" for our discussion on the secret dealings over the President Hotel.

President Hotel: Lobbying at a glance

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Comments

123 people like this
Posted by Developer Giveaways Are Destroying Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2018 at 2:55 am

Once again, the Weekly deserves enormous praise for helping expose the secret pro-developer shenanigans at the core of our city government.

Had city staff stood up for the existing laws back in June, the building would likely never have sold to AJ Capital and its tenants would never have been forced to leave. The current plight of those tenants is entirely the fault of our city employees.

Worse, this is hardly the only example of how our city government constantly favors developers over residents and sound policy. Remember the backroom dealings over the giant buildings proposed for 27 University? Remember all the promised public benefits that never materialized from so-called "Planned Community" projects? Have you spotted the massive giveaways to developers piling up in the current supposedly "pro-housing" ordinance discussions? Add your own favorite examples below.


84 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2018 at 6:44 am

Annette is a registered user.

Wisconsin Republicans have nothing on Palo Alto City Council. What's happening there and here is corrosive.

What's playing out vis-a-vis the Hotel President may well have been orchestrated from the get go. Regardless, the future of the Hotel President is, in all likelihood, a done deal. Either via a law suit (which I wager AJCap would win) or these accommodating actions, AJCap is going to be able to do what they must have believed was possible before they purchased the property. It makes no sense to believe they rolled the dice for $65 million. It does make sense to believe they had assurances. And that probably links back to our City Manager's "by right" statement. And that may link to the unusual news that broke regarding his decision to decline any offered salary increase.

Looking beyond the President Hotel, the bigger issue is how business is done here. Is what we are seeing from this CC the new normal? Where's the real control over our built environment? Has it been ceded to Staff? How much latitude do the City Manager and Staff have? And who has the authority to give assurances to developers? Other than paying taxes and fees, what's the role of residents?

"Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear" . . . but it eventually will be.


32 people like this
Posted by Why does Keene need a raise?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2018 at 7:28 am

[Post removed.]


40 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 7, 2018 at 8:51 am

Public records requests uncover how our public entities and elected officials are operating.


75 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 7, 2018 at 9:20 am

The articles states that Council member Greg Scharff had private "consultations" with AJ Capital.

How inappropriate for him to advise or negotiate or consult with AJ behind close doors without the benefits of his Colleagues on Council and in full view of the public!?!

Why would he do such a thing; does he have any personal interest in what the outcome of this sordid business is????
Did he advise them in his professional capacity as a Land use attorney??

Surely he will not participate in any Items Monday that will affect the President Apartments fate....surely he will recuse himself.

Thank you weekly for your great reporting!!!!!!


57 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:10 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Echoing Annette's post above. Government by spiteful outgoing lame ducks is becoming quite the thing.


18 people like this
Posted by Uninformed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:27 am

...As usual, you can expect the Friday editorial of the Palo Alto Weekly to be conspiratorial and under-informed ("A disingenuous attempt has been made to suggest it's merely a coincidence..." <--- with zero evidence). Or how about providing cover for do-nothing residentialists to do what they do best, and vote no ("This staff proposal should never have made it onto the council's agenda and should be pulled or resoundingly rejected"). Or what about inflaming tensions around a totally normal business practice ("The involvement of former senior-level city staff members as paid consultants to A.J. Capital has done nothing but raise suspicions..").

Great job, Weekly! You've managed to perturb and disturb your faithful anonymous online commenters once again! To the ramparts!


9 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:39 am

JCP is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:43 am

@ Annette.
I always really appreciate your posts!!! But I'm not sure why you the Hotel conversion is a done deal?

Seems like AJ Capital is reeling, desperately trying to get friendly councilmembers to change the laws to make the deal legal.
AJ Capital made a huge mistake, relying on its "experts" who didn't bother to tell it that our laws aren't so simple. Unless the Council buckles, the building cannot and will not convert to hotel.

Its really important that the public despite the inconvenience and late hour show up at Council Chambers to tell them we will bot put up with this kind of slimy stealth governance!

keep on posting your great comments!


24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2018 at 11:11 am

Annette is a registered user.

With regard to the troubling trend of spiteful acts by outgoing lame ducks, there was a good discussion of this on Forum yesterday. What's happening is not good for government at any level. Nor is it good for the governed.

Palo Alto has the capacity to be better than what we are seeing and to set an example for honest government IF our local leaders will demonstrate the political will to do that. Financial alignments are undermining this city's potential in this area, but we can always hope for better. After all, 2019 is just around the corner.

@Anon - I think the hotel deal is a done deal b/c of a confluence of particulars that include a CC majority that favors development, the pending retirement of our City Manager, that same City Manager's "by right" comment, the effectiveness of Mr. Lanferman, the tapering off of resistance, the already-accomplished departure of many of the residents, and the agendas for the December CC meetings. Also, money talks.


39 people like this
Posted by TMH
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 7, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Great Editorial!

Thank you Gennady Sheyer and the PA Weekly for exposing these horrible "backroom" dealings and secret meetings between developers and City officials that been going on for way to long. There is no doubt that the President Hotel residents themselves would still be out protesting and talking about their forced move, if it wasn't for the "bribe" they received from AJ Capital to remain "silent". That is so wrong and unethical, I'm ashamed to have our City involved in any part of this plan. The decision to go forward with this idea of removing the "grandfather clause", which benefits directly the President Hotel developer, lies with City staff and the City Council majority, who remain in the pocket of big developers.

Unfortunately, only when residents stand up and protest these things does Mayor Liz Kniss and the Council majority really listen -- now it the time to stand up and stop these "midnight" decisions that the Council forces on us in a very "secretive" way.


20 people like this
Posted by Forget About the President Hotel & Its Former Tenants
a resident of University South
on Dec 7, 2018 at 2:52 pm

> I think the hotel deal is a done deal b/c of a confluence of particulars... Also, money talks.

Yes. The displaced residents of the President Hotel received their relocation remuneration and an extended deadline to depart the premises. As other anti-development proponents have strongly stated, no one has a right to reside in Palo Alto and the former renters at the President Hotel are no different.

Time to move on and focus on the larger task at hand...curtailing further development in Palo Alto.


34 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 7, 2018 at 5:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

It's not time to move on; it's time to write the City Council -- again -- and tell them not to replace downtown residences with more commercial space. It's high time for Mayor Kniss and the city council to start listening to the residents instead of seeing conspiracies whenever we object to underhanded dealings like her recent comments about the residents' letters objecting to Keene getting another raise.

Maybe she and the CC could spend more time listening to the residents and taxpayers and reading the comments here and on Next Door she might understand it doesn't take a conspiracy to get us to write letters objecting to outrageous spending and shady dealings.


15 people like this
Posted by Hotel Story Getting Old
a resident of University South
on Dec 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

> it's time to write the City Council -- again -- and tell them not to replace downtown residences with more commercial space.

A hotel is also a residency...just a temporary one. Former tenants being replaced by visiting hotel guests amounts to the same thing in terms of occupancy.

> The displaced residents of the President Hotel received their relocation remuneration and an extended deadline to depart the premises. As other anti-development proponents have strongly stated, no one has a right to reside in Palo Alto and the former renters at the President Hotel are no different.

^^^^This.


10 people like this
Posted by Residentialist
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 7, 2018 at 6:19 pm

@Annettte - 2 questions:

1) If the CC enacts the things that AJ Capital is asking for, is it referendable?

2) For those of us who missed it, what was the Ciy Manager’s “by right” comment?

Thanks!


24 people like this
Posted by ResidentsofLosAltos
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 8, 2018 at 6:28 am

Los Altos too has the same problem with unaccountable public servants and elected officials. E.g., it used to require 15000 sq ft lots to permit an ADU. Residents were fine with reducing it to 13K, 12K, even 10K. The City posted a notice June 2018 re: an agenda item at the upcoming Council meeting "to consider reducing the lot size required to establish an ADU."

Guess what Council did? By a 4-1 vote, they flat out *eliminated* the lot size requirement! Also eliminated: side setbacks, owner occupancy. In effect they have the City into a hunting ground for developers to buy properties, build ADUs on side property lines, rent out the master and ADU, with cars parked on the streets. City staff and the Mayor's stated-on-the-record pretexts for these drastic changes? "State Law has tied our hands...we have no option..." which is baloney and gobbledygook combined together as State makes no such requirement and no other City has taken these steps.

Mayor Mordo got kicked out in Nov elections. Guess what he did on his way out? Attempt--without due public notice or discussion--to give a raise to non-union City staff (i.e., his buddy managers at City Hall) even though they last received a raise this past June!

He, the City, staff etc are defendants in the Federal and State Courts...and lacking a good explanation that makes sense to judge and jury, face liability that is sky-high. That may be the only option left for Palo Alto residents as well.


7 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2018 at 8:02 am

@residentoflosaltos,

Mordo was such bad news, I recall the articles about his run ins, would be nice to hear more about him as defendant in a federal and state lawsuit l.

I’ve been wondering about a lawsuit because two parties AJ and President Hotel residents negotiated a deal behind closed doors using public zoning by enticing city staff. How is that not illegal?

I signed a petition in support of President Hotel residents and I feel duped by them.

The right thing should be for the residents to end this “deal” and stop the charade. As a signatories to the petition I feel like suing somebody because this was just so wrong.


16 people like this
Posted by Sign Me Up
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2018 at 8:08 am

> He, the City, staff etc are defendants in the Federal and State Courts...and lacking a good explanation that makes sense to judge and jury, face liability that is sky-high. That may be the only option left for Palo Alto residents as well.
>> As a signatories to the petition I feel like suing somebody because this was just so wrong.

Well then...start a petition of your own to initiate a class action suit against the City of Palo Alto, PACC and outgoing City Manager + his staff.


25 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2018 at 8:22 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Residentialist:

1. It is my understanding that the referendum process can be used to challenge legislative actions.

2. I do not recall the date just now, but at a CC meeting Keene stated that the new property owner can move ahead "by right" with the conversion back to a hotel. Not long after that a Palo Alto resident, Jeff Levinsky, pointed out that the code doesn't allow for such a conversion. And not long after that, Keene said Staff is reviewing the code to see if the planned conversion would be legal.

Palo Alto's zoning code is arcane. Even so, our Planners and City Manager are responsible for knowing it, applying it fairly, and providing accurate information about it. I think it reasonable to expect City Staff to be as well informed about it as Jeff Levinsky and Mr. Lanferman. We should not be in this tangle.


13 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:26 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

Interesting. Despite all of this complaining, nothing ever seems to get better in the everyday world of Palo Alto...so what does that tell you?


23 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:50 am


> ("The involvement of former senior-level city staff members as paid consultants to A.J. Capital has done nothing but raise suspicions..").

That was former deputy city manager, Steve Emslie, who is now a consultant to developers who want to build in Palo Alto:
Web Link

When he was still working for the city, he and several other staffers were working behind the scenes with developer John Arrillaga in an attempt to get 9- and 10- story buildings approved at 27 University Avenue. That led to a Grand Jury complaint.

Read the Grand Jury report at Web Link

Nothing changes.


9 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2018 at 10:26 am

R Davis,

“nothing ever seems to get better in the everyday world of Palo Alto...so what does that tell you?”

Tells me that the electorate is messed up to knowingly elect folks of the majority ilk

Willing to let unethical sleazy stuff “pass”

They do this because they can and because many of the electorate were either too stupid or misinformed to elect the majority group on the dais...or they are a developer chamber of commerce front that also includes Stanford which is a big developer as well

Elmslie became famous via Arrillaga and apparently that Stanford Arrillaga connection made City staff swoon


8 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2018 at 10:28 am

R Davis,

“nothing ever seems to get better in the everyday world of Palo Alto...so what does that tell you?”

Tells me that the electorate is messed up to elect folks of the majority ilk

Willing to let unethical sleazy stuff “pass”

The proverbial “they” do this because they can and because many of the electorate were either too stupid or misinformed to elect better...or the developer chamber of commerce front os so powerful they can’t resist, it includes Stanford which is a big developer as well

Elmslie became famous via Arrillaga and apparently that Stanford Arrillaga connection made City staff swoon

AJ Capital must have friends out there too


2 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2018 at 10:32 am

Adventurous Journeys Capital

their name should be fully spelled out


2 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2018 at 10:38 am

If land valuation says build commercial build commercial. Palo Alto is part of Silicon Valley and those who lack the income to reside in Palo Alto can't afford to do so, so be it. Live in San Jose or on the east side. The idea of "affordable housing" is a hoax. About half of the homeless are truly in need and should be housed but of course there are budgetary restraints. The few who win the lottery are subsidized by the other 90% of those didn't win the lottery as well as by higher waged taxpayers. Resources are scarce. The San Jose Property Rights Initiative is now on it's way.

George Drysdale a social studies teacher


13 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2018 at 11:11 am

How is that the President Hotel residents reached out to Greg Scharff?

He’s not the Mayor, what made Scharff special to help negotiate something?

Is it public information to know which residents of the President Hotel approached Scharff?


11 people like this
Posted by Of Course
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2018 at 1:11 pm

“nothing ever seems to get better in the everyday world of Palo Alto...so what does that tell you?”

> Tells me that the electorate is messed up to knowingly elect folks of the majority ilk...Willing to let unethical sleazy stuff “pass”

> The proverbial “they” do this because they can and because many of the electorate
were either too stupid or misinformed to elect better.

**Pretty much explains Palo Alto in a nutshell. The residents have only themselves to blame.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Evidently the CC is looking at changing 4 laws to help the President's buyer on Monday night so the time is now to write to them to protest.


27 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm

jh is a registered user.

Resident's do nothing? Do you know what it took and cost to get this past summer's petition to keep the rate of commercial development at the historic level, rather than the increased rate approved the Council majority, signed and legally written so it could become a referendum if necessary? Council eventually saw the writing on the wall and avoided the expense of placing a referendum on the ballot which would have passed anyway.

What about Cory losing his re-election bid?

Seems to me many residents are wising up and paying attention. Perhaps the duplicity shown by some council members and city staff, led by James Keene, had to become so publicly blatant even trusting folks busy getting on with their lives, assuming council members spoke honestly during council election campaigns, are finally wising up to just how much private development interests and/or political aspirations are behind council and staff decisions.


5 people like this
Posted by Ariel Fishman
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Can the President residents keep the money from AJ and still refuse to leave the premises?

The City Council can then make a new law that replaces the original AJ agreement.


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Well, well, well...I now read that this will be on the agenda for Monday's CC meeting. Watch it if you can and want to , or go down to City Hall if you can and want to...and if you're willing to waste a couple hours of your time. The die is cast...the deal is done...unless we want to take the risk of losing a big lawsuit.

@RssidentsofLosAltos
Gee, I thought we were the only city to get bilked into supporting new ordinances for ADU's, all for the sake of dear old 'granny'. What we have now is basically the ability of turning R-1 residential into R-2 if everyone wants to build a housing shack, excuse me, a nice comfortable, well appointed ADU in their backyard. Oh, what a good way to gain income from renting to highly paid tech millennials and to get above water on mortgage payments. Poor old 'granny' will be left out in the cold. There will never be any enforcement of this in PA. Cars, parking, quality of life? The proponents always say those won't be affected. Yeah, right, but we will never know.

@Of Course
Yes, we are to blame because we are the ones who elect them into office. Every vote counts, and we all need to be better stewards in making sure we vote for the best and right people who will represent us, all of us, north and south, east and west, on CC. I'd like to think we're getting better at that, and that there is hope with our new CC. Time will tell. My plea would be...engsge, listen to, and support our residents and their needs. We, for the most part, voted you into office, and for good reasons...we want you to take care of our needs more than the needs of developers who could ruin our town and our quality of life if they get their way. It has been, sadly, leaning that way too much, however, with the new relaxations on building rules.


41 people like this
Posted by JR McDugan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 8, 2018 at 3:50 pm

JR McDugan is a registered user.

This is corruption, plain and simple. Any council member who votes to change these laws is voting to evict Palo Alto residents so that developers can profit.


28 people like this
Posted by Henry VI - Part 2 - Act 4 - Scene 2
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2018 at 5:17 pm

"Can the President residents keep the money from AJ and still refuse to leave the premises?"

"The City Council can then make a new law that replaces the original AJ agreement."

Geeze. To a lawyer, litigation along these lines would be sweeter than the most remarkable pipedream known to man.


26 people like this
Posted by Janis Wick
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2018 at 7:19 am

With regard to the President Hotel Apartments controversy, I just want to add my own comments to the litany of dismay that we are once again losing precious affordable housing to a luxury hotel. Such a truly despicable move hits very close to home because I own one of the very few below market condominiums that remain as part of the affordable housing stock in Palo Alto. I purchased this condo in 1979 at a price considerably below the market even then. At that time I was working full time as an administrative assistant in the School of Medicine and simply couldn't afford in any way to get into the "regular" real estate market in Palo Alto. The condominium is tiny (540 sq ft), but I have lived here quite happily for over 30 years now along with my pets and worked until retirement age and paid local taxes and contributed to the community in a variety of ways, mostly through my church, and now that I'm retired and a bit disabled, I am happily able to continue to live in what the PAPD call the most boring beat in town and enjoy having a Walgreens, a Subway, a Starbucks and a Japanese restaurant within walking distance. I plan, if at all possible, to die in this tiny condo. I am deeply, deeply grateful to the citizens of Palo Alto who, years ago, stood toe to toe with developers and didn't back down and created the BMR program through the Palo Alto Housing Corporation. Just shame on the City Council and Staff who have forgotten or who are simply ignoring people like me, people who DON'T have the high tech salaries and pay-outs, who may, like me, be living on fixed incomes, but who are hard workers, contributors, and to my mind essential citizens of the City of Palo Alto. If you want rich and white-skinned well go for it, but it will be over my dead body and I suspect the dead bodies of quite a number of folks! I'm sorry, I'm too decrepit to make it to the City Council meeting, but if anybody would like to read this comment aloud at that meeting including my name, PLEASE DO! In the meanwhile, I will write to the City Council. Thank you Palo Alto Weekly for your excellent work!


20 people like this
Posted by Suggestions
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 10, 2018 at 8:30 am

City staff and our elected representatives operate on the basis they, as public servants etc have legal immunity. It is also a fact that most residents and homeowners are busy with our quotidian duties and lack the time, energy, resources to challenge the actions of City staff/Council. A double whammy that works against residents and in favor of the staff/Council.

We residents have a few choices to restore transparency and accountability back into this system that is otherwise rigged against us.

a) Use the Public Records Act and obtain the relevant documents and finding proof of corruption, engage the DA's Office to bring the public servants/elected officials to account.
b) Engage the FPPC (to investigate, bring to account the elected officials).
c) Report to the State AG's Office, etc.
d) Take the matter to the Courts: Federal and/or State. The other side fears this most and worries about it least (for the simple reason they know we don't have the time, etc.) Well, make the time. Once is enough for them to get the message.

Remind the staff and Council members their legal immunity is *qualified* and narrowly limited. If they are found to have crossed it their personal liability is unlimited. The more you have in your camp the stronger your message and impact.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2018 at 10:38 am

Posted by Suggestions, a resident of Los Altos

>> City staff and our elected representatives operate on the basis they, as public servants etc have legal immunity. [...] Remind the staff and Council members their legal immunity is *qualified* and narrowly limited. If they are found to have crossed it their personal liability is unlimited.

You allude to two different types of corruption. Type 1 is when the fruits of your corruption end up in your bank account and you can spend the money. Bribes, phony loans, favoritism in business transactions that result in spending money. There is no legal immunity for public officials who cross that line.

The other type, "Type 2", is when you see the world with the same green-colored eyeglasses as your business friends and partners. -Of course- Palo Alto -needs- more office space, traffic, construction, traffic, high-rises, and traffic. That's "vibrancy". It puts money in the pockets of your friends and associates. You call it "progress", and, it is inevitable. "Everybody" is happier. You never stop to ask yourself if the residents of the city, the people who voted for you, are happier. Or healthier.


17 people like this
Posted by Suggestions
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 10, 2018 at 11:20 am

>You allude to two different types of corruption...Types 1 and 2.

I agree, Type 2 allows a lot more wiggle room than Type 1...and the staff and elected officials know that...and exploit it at our cost.

In the matter of Hotel President and AJ residents CAN (and in my opinion, MUST) hold the responsible parties accountable...with the DA's Office, etc. After all with the facts and evidence on hand (from the records) it no mere coincidence the City is attempting to amend the Code to permit exactly what was prohibited...and they are doing it shortly after meetings and communications with AJ that the public were not privy to...and ex-City employees served as consultants to AJ and their former colleagues, still employed by the City, contravened the Code in issuing a permit for AJ, and this would not have come to light save for a resident noticing the unlawful permit and the media reporting it, etc.

It is not just coincidence the City is attempting to amend the Code now. It in fact fits the pattern of dubious conduct that merits investigation by the DA's Office, etc. and residents can demand injunctive relief by the Courts until this whole thing is found to be legal.

What's happening in Los Altos provides a template for Palo Alto to adopt...except that Palo Alto has it better in a couple ways: more aware and informed residents and a more alive and awake media. The Los Altos Town Crier, sadly, is deep in the pockets of City Hall and Council and would not cover their fraud and misrepresentations, even when provided evidence.


21 people like this
Posted by Homeless in PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Palo Alto had low-income downtown housing at one time...the Craig Hotel on Hamilton.

There was also a Craig Hotel in downtown Mountain View...one street down from Castro Street.

Why are both of them gone...not upscale enough?


19 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Please stop bashing the President tenants. The deal they have been offered by the landowner only pays them if they leave by January (or June at the latest) and only after they vacate, AND if the City does this month what the landower wants, *AND* if the tenants adhere to a gag agreement not to lobby against the landowner's redvelopement plans. That's a lot of "if"s. So many "if"s the deal is illusory.

Fact the tenants by City code have a right to stay until June 2019 thanks to the previous landowner's failure to offer 12 month leases keeps being forgotten. Why the landowner did not offer all the tenants last June a 12 month lease and instead make them pawns in this back room 2018 poker game against City Hall and voters to maximize their redevelopement profits just shows the owner to be a bad poker player considering this back room story now tops the Foothill Park Lee parcel fiasco. (Thanks History Buff for the grand jury link above on that poker game.)

Taking the word of a Palo Alto City Manager how City code would be interpreted by City Hall on redeveloping a historic downtown underparked low cost housing and too-tall building is childishly naive. I'd love to serve on a jury for any lawsuit about that "by right" Keene statement. I just worry if on such a jury I'd laugh myself to death.





2 people like this
Posted by A Brouha Over Nothing
a resident of University South
on Dec 10, 2018 at 2:23 pm

> Please stop bashing the President tenants. The deal they have been offered by the landowner only pays them if they leave by January (or June at the latest) and only after they vacate...

Not a bad deal considering it comes with a $20,000 pay-off for some. No sympathy here...some folks seem to forget that PA residency as a renter is not an entitlement.

Regarding evictions...a 60-Day Notice is required if a lease tenant has resided on the rental property for over one year. A 30-Day Notice for less than 12 months of occupancy. These displaced tenants are making out like bandits in many instances.

Still unclear...is this developer controversy (1) a 'feel sorry' story about the displaced residents of the President Hotel or (2) a protest against a former hotel being converted back to a hotel?

It's becoming more obvious that some folks here have never played Monopoly.


26 people like this
Posted by Ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2018 at 2:41 pm

@ A Brouha,

Problem for me is that a deal was struck to lose 75 housing units in Palo Alto which is majorly expensive to recover. The plight of President Hotel residents was used as leverage and insult to injury they don’t want to stop there but Adventurous Journeys also wants parking concessions.

We’ll now see who says No and who says Yes. I like the idea of a Grand Jury Investigation.


19 people like this
Posted by ABooForBrouha
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 10, 2018 at 2:45 pm

>is this developer controversy (1) a 'feel sorry' story about the displaced
>residents of the President Hotel or (2) a protest against a former
>hotel being converted back to a hotel?

Brouha's attempt to reframe the issue is as lame as his spelling.

Just so it is clear to City staff, elected officials, and their shills: this issue is about applying the existing Code consistently, equally. No special privileges for those that have hired former City employees as "consultants" to engage in backroom "negotiations on behalf those that engage them" with their former colleagues still employed by the City. No hoodwinking the public through gobbledygook double-talk last minute amendments of the Code that are transparently lame attempts to rationalize unlawful permits issued by corrupt officials.

Time for us residents to put staff and elected officials to the litmus test of qualified immunity and see if their conduct would result in their being held personally liable. Let's go!


24 people like this
Posted by The Bottom Line
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 10, 2018 at 4:55 pm

This issue has nothing to do with the displaced residents of the President Hotel...that's their problem and besides, they're getting remunerated quite nicely for the inconvenience.

It has to do with accountability and a lack of transparency on the part of the PACC and City of Palo Alto...the backroom wheeling and dealing, the vested interests involved, the ostensible opportunism and avarice on the part of various elected officials and upper management.

Forget about the Hotel President residents...it's time to address and resolve the real problems and issues...2nd paragraph.


19 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2018 at 5:36 pm

Bottom Line, I agree with you this truly is about City Hall accountability and transparency not the tenants whose tenants' rights will end sometime in 2019 if the landlord crosses all "T"s and dots all "I"s for tenants' rights.

Fact that City staff and the landowner are attempting to force a pile of serious code and policy changes through a lameduck City Council reeks. Calling a proposed land use grandfathering code change merely fixing a cut-and-paste mistake is not credible. Not until we residents demand an end to the revolving door of retired City staff as paid consultants to local landowners will this sort of bad behavior end.

Zoning changes, parking in lieu fees, and changes to historic buildings should all go first to the proper committees such as planning, historic and architecural before gumming up City Council Monday evenings.


29 people like this
Posted by The Bottle Was Dusty But the Liquor Was Clean
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 10, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Curious. When did the President Hotel become an apartment complex?

When the band used to come to town, we'd book a few rooms to crash there after doing a show. It was kind of run-down back then but the overnight rates were cheap and there was always something to do in downtown Palo Alto.

Used to stop over at Dana Morgan's on Bryant and occasionally run into Garcia, Crosby, and Pig Pen hanging out in the back of the store. Cassady and Kaukonen played a few gigs at the Poppycock on University after forming Hot Tuna so we'd sometimes stop over there for some fish and chips.

Got busted once for pot and was temporarily detained at the old police station on the other side of University...Bryant Street again. *L*

No cell phones back then. Just a couple of dimes to call this radical/left-wing attorney get us out. The guy drove down from Berkeley and ironically, got arrested himself on the way back for a DUI and having some windowpane on his possession. Those were the days.

Recently drove down University as I found myself in town to bury a sibling. Palo Alto has really changed. It's too bad that people are fighting over this kind of stuff but hey...'the man' will always be the man.


22 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 10, 2018 at 7:44 pm

"Zoning changes, parking in lieu fees, and changes to historic buildings should all go first to the proper committees such as planning, historic and architecural before gumming up City Council Monday evenings."

But A. J. Capital doesn't want to wait. City hall heard them. Besides, opportunities to convert low-cost housing to high-revenue commercial space don't come along every day.


13 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2018 at 1:15 am

Enjoyed watching on cable TV the City Council Monday night do their version of late night Kabuki theater.

I lost count of the number of times the Mayor and Ciy staff tried to pooh-pooh any accusations against them of "deep state" behavior or any inappropriate back room dealings. It appears to them their "We've-an-emergency of health, safety, and welfare!!" to justify this rush job need for Council action on AJ Capital's latest hopes & dreams on Monday's agenda was just business as usual and anyone who thinks otherwise shoudl just apologize to them as the Mayor did to the City Mansger,


16 people like this
Posted by Nobody's Fool
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2018 at 9:45 am

> I lost count of the number of times the Mayor and City staff tried to pooh-pooh any accusations against them of "deep state" behavior or any inappropriate back room dealings.

Well they're hardly going to admit to it. It's called taking the 5th.


8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2018 at 11:09 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Oldster and @Nobody's Fool, yes and it happened last week with the Mayor's accusations over the issue of Mr. Keene's raise.


2 people like this
Posted by Janis Wick
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2018 at 3:19 pm

It is astonishing to me the number of people who are repeatedly commenting on this important story while refusing to use their own names. Being opinionated is easy when you are basically a coward. It's disgusting. I will read no more and post no more.


8 people like this
Posted by RV Dweller
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Palo Alto had low-income downtown housing at one time...the Craig Hotel on Hamilton.

...not upscale enough?

Apparently not enough for the high-brows supporting the President Hotel tenants. Palo Alto is all based on appearances and if one doesn't fit a certain mold, they are considered outcasts and unworthy to associate or interact with the regular residents.

For many, The Craig was a cost-effective hotel following a good bender or for those experiencing a stretch of hard luck. It served its purpose but I imagine there were some PA Alto residents who looked upon the tenants disparagingly and with scorn.
That's Palo Alto. So yes...it was simply not upscale enough to warrant any sympathy or concern for those who resided there.

It's the same vibe towards those living in run-down RVs...glances of contempt, ridicule and an unspoken word that says you are not welcome here.

But that's OK...some of these discriminating folks will get their comeuppance one day.




5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2018 at 5:36 pm

Posted by RV Dweller, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Palo Alto had low-income downtown housing at one time...the Craig Hotel on Hamilton.

>> Palo Alto is all based on appearances and if one doesn't fit a certain mold, they are considered outcasts and unworthy to associate or interact with the regular residents.

So, your claim is that some Palo Alto residents are snobs? OK, I can accept that.

>> That's Palo Alto. So yes...it was simply not upscale enough to warrant any sympathy or concern for those who resided there.

Who knows -- even some snobbish people might have sympathy or concern? I can think of a number of such people. So, while they might be snobs, they might not be psychopaths. Don't over-generalize.

>> It's the same vibe towards those living in run-down RVs...glances of contempt, ridicule and an unspoken word that says you are not welcome here.

Different reasons, different subsets of people. I think RVs are a horrible excuse for housing. I see every reason to discourage people from owning and living in RVs. If we had the land for an RV park, which, we don't, I would be pushing for low-income apartments to be built on it.


8 people like this
Posted by Palo Altans Aren't Snobs But Some Of the Businesses Are
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2018 at 6:38 pm

Last fall after recycling bottles and cans for over two years + some panhandling on the side, I decided to take my family out to a nice dinner. We drove our RV to a well-known PA restaurant and the valet refused to park our vehicle. When I expressed my disbelief and disappointment at his attitude, the valet contacted the manager who came out and told us that our kind were not welcome at HIS restaurant.

This was to be a combination anniversary dinner for my wife and I + a birthday and going away celebration for eldest my son who had just turned 19 and had enlisted in the Army. The incident was not only humiliating but disheartening as well.

There were two diners departing the restaurant who overheard this conversation and one of them expressed her dismay at the manager's negative attitude towards us. Her date then pulled her aside muttering, "Why waste your time with these dirtbags?" and then the valet delivered their car, a late model Audi sedan.

My wife was crying and whispering, "There is no God" as we departed the restaurant parking lot. Needless to say, it was a very sad and unfortunate evening in Palo Alto. One that I will never forget.

The restaurant remains (and so do we) but there are two worlds in Palo Alto, one that those of comfortable means will never fully understand.


10 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2018 at 12:26 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Hey I love the poster chiming in with the anecdote from the folk era / Dana Morgan / Jerry Garcia days — his non de plume is a reference to a Robert Hunter Grateful Dead song.
I guess the point is not to be too myopic here.
We do need hotels where rock bands and their fans can crash. The Clement has a rocker vibe to the extent that it has an electric guitar mounted in the lobby — but $1,000 / night rate seems geared more for the Saudi royal family than New Riders of The Purple Sage.
Note that what used to be called “The Man” is now “the deep state”.


20 people like this
Posted by Take Walk On the Wild Side...Not
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2018 at 9:43 am

> Palo Alto has really changed.

Given the comparison to its earlier days (circa late 60s-early 70s), downtown Palo Alto is now about as interesting as walking down Main Street in Los Altos.

There is absolutely nothing left to do except maybe dine at an overpriced restaurant or take a brief walk along University Avenue which reveals little of note.

How did things manage to get so boring? Is this reflective of the reviled developer factions or perhaps the newer residents of Palo Alto themselves?


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2018 at 10:00 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Actually Los Altos has some great newish restaurants and interesting stores to browse [portion removed] and are thriving according to the owners.


11 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2018 at 9:39 am

Maybe it's time for another Grand Jury investigation. Keene can't leave soon enough.


7 people like this
Posted by Read the News
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Palo Alto is just a microcosm of the greater United States...shady dealings, developer interests, questionable leadership etc.

Who are we to think that we're superior and/or supposed to be better off than the rest of the USA?

Read the news...the local reportage is the same as the national, just on a far smaller scale.


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

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