Proposed 2020 Bay Road development would be East Palo Alto's largest office park

If approved, 1.3-million-square-foot project could fund hundreds of new affordable homes

East Palo Alto's proposed commercial mega-development at 2020 Bay Road could fund hundreds of new affordable-housing units, transportation and storm-drain improvements, according to a recent analysis by the city's community development director.

The 1.3 million-square-foot project could bring in $41.2 million in one-time impact fees and an estimated $10 million in annual fees, Community Development Director Patrick Heisinger told the Planning Commission on June 24. If approved, the project would be the largest in the city's history and the linchpin for commercial development in the city's Ravenswood/4 Corners area.

The one-time impact fees could pay out an estimated $14.3 million for affordable housing, which would lead to 400 new residences. That sizable increase would be nearly double that of two affordable-housing projects the city has thus far approved: 128 new units at Light Tree Apartments located at 1805 E. Bayshore Road and 120 affordable units at 965 Weeks St. on city-owned land.

In addition to adding funds for housing, the project impact fees would include an estimated $1.4 million for parks and trails, $2.6 million for public facilities, $9.5 million for transportation, $5 million for storm-drain improvements and $7.5 million for water connections. In contrast, schools would see a lower impact fee of $800,000 due to the project's intended land use, since office buildings are less likely to have impacts on schools compared to housing, Heisinger said.

The city would also see $3.25 million in annual fees from Measure HH, the commercial-space tax on large developments, and $6.6 million each year from property taxes, Heisinger said.

The project is located in part on the old Romic Environmental Technologies site, an area that is heavily contaminated by more than 40 years of hazardous materials. The site has been monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control since 2001. The land has a restricted-deed covenant because of contamination that will not allow for housing, day care facilities or schools.

Bounded by Bay Road, Tara Street and the Baylands, the development would have five eight-story office buildings on 17.2 acres and would include 3,500 square feet of ground-floor retail. The office buildings would be 130 feet high, according to the proposal by New York-based developer Three Cities Research Inc. Two parking garages would accommodate 4,538 spaces. An estimated 5,000 workers would be employed at the site, a member of the development team said at a May 30 community meeting.

The project will be reduced slightly in size after feedback from the May meeting and others held in March and early May, representatives for the developer said at the June planning commission meeting. Residents said they want waterfront access to the Baylands and unobstructed views of the bay and wetlands. To accomplish those goals, the developer's representatives said they will scale back the proposal from its original 1.4 million square feet and would add a 40-foot setback along Bay Road. The modified square footage and setback would allow for "viewing corridors" next to Bay Road that would overlook the city's new open-space park at Cooley Landing.

The developer has also agreed to build and maintain a 1.89-acre waterfront park, which would have amenities such as spotting scopes for bird watching, paths and landscaping. It would also add public parking at the park and accessible paths from Tara Street and Bay Road. As additional community benefits, Three Cities has also committed to first-source hiring for local residents at its office development in keeping with city policy. It would also contribute or add public art and is considering a community space.

Residents have voiced concerns regarding the large project's impacts on traffic and housing. In the May 30 community meeting, the developer's representative told residents that "probably" 90% of employees won't live in the city, according to meeting notes, although they did not offer details regarding that analysis.

The city appeared serious regarding the project's traffic impacts. Heisinger told the developer they should have an "ambitious" transportation demand management plan and consider creating a transit-management association with neighboring commercial property owners so they won't conflict with each other's management plans as the area grows. The plan should also have elements such as community shuttles that would be accessible to the public, including penalty clauses for non-compliance with the management plan and an annual review, city staff noted.

An environmental impact report (EIR), which has been commissioned by the city, is estimated to be completed by the end of July or early August. Staff plans to ask for a 60-day public comment period for the report, since the project is significant. The planning commission and the city council will also weigh in on the EIR through study sessions. Assistant City Manager Sean Charpentier said a council study session on the project is scheduled for July 30.


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19 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2019 at 1:21 am

I'm all for development in EPA, but for 2020 Bay Road I can't get beyond there being only one entrance & exit, and around 10,000 employees. Any way you slice it, this results in unacceptable levels of traffic on Pulgas Avenue and Bay Road. The city undoubtedly needs the money this project would generate, but should only approve this project if strict traffic management strategies are required. There is no way to get 10000 employees in and out of one entrance using cars.

10 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2019 at 2:36 am

^ Looked like article says "An estimated 5,000 workers would be employed at the site."
I suppose it'll be 10,000 after inflation, or did I miss something else?

4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 5, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Better there than here. I hope they can get that traffic problem solved. I think they can, and will, with the help of good expert advice from consultants working on it. Of course that will be an added cost...for the consultants as well as the infrastructure changes required. Whether the developer or the taxpaying residents, or a combination of both will foot the bill for the solution is yet to be determined. EPA is the right place for a project that size. Downtown PA isn't, and wasn't even for the now limited office space development that crept up and overwhelmed us over the years due to lack of good planning and clear heads on CC. The damage has been done and now we struggle to deal with the impacts and try to work our way out of it. I think we have a CC in place now that can get it done. It might even get better after the next CC election.

11 people like this
Posted by jean
a resident of Egan Middle School (Los Altos)
on Jul 5, 2019 at 12:38 pm

And what about sealevel rise? It also affects ground water rising. Huge buildings will change winds around there. And University ave approach to the Dumbarton bridge will gat a lot of new traffic. any plan for new access to this project??? This is an area adjacent to the bay and the wildlife refuge...a huge tall bunch of buildings seem out of place.
It is nice for EPA to get revenue for other services, but at what cost to the environment?

11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Sounds like an excellent project for increasing CA-84 gridlock and reducing the amount of commute traffic that can enter/leave Palo Alto over the Dumbarton Bridge at rush hour. I'm looking forward to speedy project completion.

(At some point, somebody may want to cough up the money to get commuter rail working from the East Bay to "over here".)

18 people like this
Posted by clear headed thinking
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 5, 2019 at 4:45 pm

clear headed thinking is a registered user.

"office space development that crept up and overwhelmed us over the years due to lack of good planning and clear heads on CC."

As a long time council meeting watcher, excess commercial development in Palo Alto is the result of clear headed thinking by those council members (past and present) with either a personal professional interest in commercial real estate or dependant on the relatively large campaign donations from those who benefit either directly or indirectly from commercial development, or both.

12 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 6, 2019 at 4:11 pm

(3500K sqft project - 3.5K retail - ? garage space) / 5K workers
comes out to roughly 250 sqft per worker which is higher than current usage (based on other local projects).

Notice that the garages have 4.5K spaces for those _expected_ 5K workers, that is 10% less for carpooling, transit users, and locals who walk or cycle to work and no increase in density of workers.

12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park

>> comes out to roughly 250 sqft per worker which is higher than current usage (based on other local projects).

Overall density can go much higher if the top MBA so desires. Check out these guidelines:

"Popular sizes are roughly 9’x12′ for middle managers or engineers with multiple computer systems; 8’x10′ for engineers or senior staff; 8’x8′ for general staff; and 8’x6′ or 6’x6′ for administrative or telephone support personnel."

Web Link

15 people like this
Posted by EPAMom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2019 at 10:41 pm

There are many problems with this project, not only the traffic and the environmental issues, which are significant. EPA residents are not, according to my informal survey, in favor of the project, and the revenue projected, a minute fraction of the rent revenue to be generated, will not even cover the additional expenses for services and infrastructure. The council feels obligated to approve the project because the developer contributed to the additional water allocation EPA got recently, which will also benefit the developer. The size of the project will consume most of the development parameters outlined in the General Plan. The open space recently made available to EPA residents will mostly be cut off by this closed campus project which will also cast shade on a large residential area. No requirements or even requests are being made to the developer to include efforts for local hiring as was done for the East Bayshore project. Next to no retail space will be included so even low income jobs won't be generated. I can't figure out how they plan to remediate the Romic superfund site contamination up to 20 feet underground and then build a two story underground parking garage 100 feet from the water which will rise 20-30 feet before 2050 according projections. It's insane and greedy and the worst thing for EPA.

6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 14, 2019 at 9:12 am

^ "will also cast shade on a large residential area." Not geometrically likely.

18 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm

I feel so much better about being shamed ( and charged) into curtailing our water usage in the past, only to sell part of our allotment to E.P.A. In order to make this project possible.

Thanks for letting us drink your Kool-Aid.

Like this comment
Posted by GoodNeighbors
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2019 at 1:08 am

I am in favor of this project. It will give EPA the money, care and visibility that it needs

2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 8, 2019 at 8:01 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

From what the state is now up to if more new business is introduced into the EPA city then the algorithm the state uses will then require more housing to be built in that city. That means more high rise apartments in that city. What gets confusing in how the state approaches housing is that the other surrounding cities will then be affected to be required to add more housing on the "regional" approach. I hope that the new buildings will be paying taxes and did not get a break on that issue.
We unfortunately have people in Sacramento who live in SF City that keep trying to introduce legislation to screw up the whole place.

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