A proposed Mercedes-Benz dealership cruised past the finish line Monday night when the Palo Alto City Council gave the project its enthusiastic blessing.
By a unanimous vote, the council backed a plan by Swickard Auto Group to construct a dealership at 1700 Embarcadero Road, the former site of Ming's Restaurant near East Bayshore Road. In supporting the project, council members lauded its eco-friendly design, its addition of a bike path and the tax revenues that the city would receive from the new development.
The proposed development differs markedly from the last Mercedes dealership that the council approved for the site in 2019 and another one it had considered in 2016. While those buildings were each slated to be more than 50,000 square feet in area and four stories in height, the new one is mostly a one-story building with a section that goes up to two stories and a total of 35,195 square feet of development.
Its horizontal layout, plus features such as a living wall and bird-safe windows, all nod to the building's location near the Baylands.
"It's meant to blend in with the Baylands and to blend in with neighboring properties," said Eric Iversen, director of real estate and facilities at Swickard. "It's not meant to be seen from anything but when you're in front of it."
The dealership also would include a bike path that would run across its property, offering an improved passage into the Baylands. The city required the bike path in recognition of the fact that the dealership, as an inherently auto-oriented development, would be unable to meet the city's transportation-demand-management targets.
Council members enthusiastically supported the project. Council member Eric Filseth said that every iteration of the dealership is getting better and better. Council member Tom DuBois said that the last time he voted to support the dealership at the Baylands, it was a "close call." The Monday vote was much less so, he said.
"This one is much less impactful, much easier to approve," he said.
Council member Greg Tanaka said he would like the city to help the applicant as much as possible in accelerating the application and establishing the dealership. The existing Audi dealership, which is next to the proposed Mercedes site, is one of the city's top contributors in sales tax revenues. Iversen estimated that the new Mercedes dealership would bring in twice as much in tax revenues.
"We can really use a dealership here," Tanaka said. "We can use the sales tax at this point in time, given our finances."
Council member Greer Stone cited the long history of proposed dealerships at this site. The new development, he said, is proof that the process can sometimes lead to superior projects.
"I do think this is a well-designed project," Stone said. "It fits within the context of that location and seems to exist well within the Baylands."