The few remaining residents of President Hotel Apartments in downtown Palo Alto will now have until the end of February to pack up their belongings and vacate their apartments.
The building's new owner, the Adventurous Journey Capital Partners, is seeking to convert the apartment building into a luxury hotel, and it had given the tenants until Jan. 31 to vacate their apartments.
Since then, the company received a "range of requests from building residents related to the Jan. 31 move-out date," according to Timothy Franzen, president of Graduate Hotels, a subsidiary of AJ Capital Partners.
The company, he said, is responding to these requests "on a case by case basis in a way that seeks to be fair to all parties involved."
"At this point, all but two residents have provided us with notice that they will be vacating the building between now and the end of February, and we are accommodating those who need the additional time in February," Franzen wrote.
"AJ Capital Partners will continue to work with the remaining residents on relocation solutions that take into account their individual needs and abilities."
The majority of the tenants left the President Hotel, located at 488 University Ave., months ago. Of the building's 75 apartments, only about two dozen remained occupied at the end of 2018. Several residents, however, were hoping to get a longer reprieve. Given that AJ Capital's hotel conversion is nowhere near approval (the developer has yet to file a formal application), two residents -- architect Iqbal Serang and retired historic preservation planner Dennis Backlund -- had both requested a longer stay, while the hotel application is being processed.
As such, Serang told the Weekly on Thursday that he found the response from AJ Capital "not very accommodating." On Wednesday night, on the eve of the eviction day, Serang attended the meeting of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which was discussing a zone change with significant implications for the hotel conversion: the elimination of a policy that prohibits "grandfathered" downtown buildings such as the President Hotel to convert to different uses. (The commission scrapped the provision but, in a setback for AJ Capital, disallowed the conversion of residential to non-residential uses.)
"I strongly feel it is a responsibility for you the commissioners and our representatives on the council to help protect us individuals who are in dire need," Serang said.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit Project Sentinel, which provides services relating to fair-housing laws, is trying to secure a longer stay in the building for two residents with disabilities, including Backlund. It had submitted its own letter last week to AJ Capital asking the company to provide "reasonable accommodations" to the two disabled residents, which could mean an additional 60 to 90 days to find a new home.
Franzen told the Weekly that the company does not believe the Fair Employment and Housing Act is applicable to the closure of President Hotel. Rather, the Act addresses requests for "reasonable accommodation" in the context of having access to facilities necessary for enjoyment of the premises (including parking for individuals with disabilities and service animals).
"Our counsel is in touch with representatives of Project Sentinel to address the specific needs of the residents in question," Franzen said.