It would replace the parcel's current buildings, which includes a local grocery, JJ&F Market.
The flier seems to hold out the promise of a new grocery store — but only if the developer gets a zoning change, called "planned community" or PC, residents said.
The circular shows color architectural renderings of the development, with an emphasis on a new market, and the interior of the flier bears JJ&F's logo — but not the name of the developer, Patrick Smailey, of Twenty-one Hundred Ventures, LLC.
Smailey sent the flier to more than 700 residents in late April, he said.
It poses five "frequently asked questions" and answers about the project:
"Does this project need a PC zone?"
"Will the College Terrace community be guaranteed a grocery store with this project?"
"Will JJ&F be able to operate the new market?"
"Is the proposed project too large for the area? Does it have too large a mass?"
"Is the proposed project, at 38'6" to the top of the roof, too tall?"
The flier includes a detachable card, on which residents are asked to vote either "yes" or "no" for the project.
Smailey provided answers for each question, contending that current neighborhood-commercial (CN) zoning needs to be changed to planned-community zoning. The new zoning would allow him to rent the offices at market rate, which could then subsidize the rent for JJ&F or a similar market, he said.
Under current zoning, the project could be 50,277 square feet, with half residential. Under PC zoning, the project could grow to 66,123 square feet.
Smailey said half of the additional square footage would be set aside for a grocery store. JJ&F would have first right of return to the space, he added.
But attorney and College Terrace resident William Ross said the zoning change would violate the city's Comprehensive Plan.
"PC zoning is a special land-use designation for extraordinary public benefits, not just to accommodate a particular type of commercial development," Ross said.
Ross said he fears the site could go the way of other neighborhood shopping districts, such as Alma Plaza, which is turning into housing plus retail.
In addition, he said, the "aging in place" concept for the city's elderly is part of Palo Alto's general plan.
"How can we age in place if we can't walk to stores?" he added.
Fred Balin, a member of the neighborhood's College Terrace Centre task force, also disputes the zoning switch.
"That's a radical change. ... The applicant is asking for 66,133 square feet of non-residential space — an excess of 46,022 feet — more than three times above what is allowed for non-residential development on the site," Balin said.
The neighborhood-association board has not yet taken a vote on the flier. Taking formal positions is rare for the board, Greg Tanaka, board president, said. Any stand would require a full consensus, he said.
Smailey said he stands by the flier's accuracy.
"The PC zone is requested so that we'll be able to support the continued business opportunities of the grocery store," he said.
Smailey said he is frustrated by the opposition to the project. He has gone through three iterations already and the wants of some residents keep changing, he said.
"Three years ago, a park was a desirable component. This time around, a park has now fallen out of favor," he said.
At an April 5 meeting, Smailey said residents offered no alternatives.
"The process has been, in our minds, an absolutely open process. ... We said, 'Give us your wish list,' and we designed the project around [that]. There has never been anything not fully disclosed. Three sets of plans evolved specifically as responses to the residents' requests. I can't think of anything in that flier that we put in that isn't truthful," he said.
Smailey said he has not submitted a formal application for the zoning change. He received a 15- to 20-percent response to the 700-plus fliers. The number of responses "was disappointing," but 90 percent of those were positive, he said.
He plans to continue working with residents on their concerns, including a meeting this week with one couple.
"We've attempted to build this in a collaborative manner, and hopefully we will build something that will be a benefit to the neighborhood," he said.
Smailey said he does understand the mistrust some residents may feel.
"A few people in the business don't behave appropriately and fairly. That taint ripples out to all of us," he said.
This story contains 818 words.
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