More than 50 neighbors have signed and sent a petition to the City Council and city planning staff about the conversion of a three-bedroom, two-bath single-story residence at the corner of Embarcadero Road into a potentially 7,300-square-foot, two-story mansion with a basement.
The new proposal would reduce the number of bedrooms to six and the number of bathrooms to eight full- and four half-baths.
Property owner Fr. Bishoy William, a former surgeon and priest at Archangel Michael & Saint Mercurius Coptic Orthodox Church in Redwood City, previously told the Weekly that he doesn't plan to use the home for any purpose other than for his family and visiting family members. On Wednesday, he expressed surprise at the opposition but declined to comment.
Neighbors said they are worried a home with so many rooms might be used as a group home or for commercial purposes, which would go against the intent of the single-family neighborhood zoning.
"There is serious concern that there may be some covert or unstated business purpose for the new project: an Airbnb hotel offering rooms for short-term rentals, a 'hacker hostel,' a conference center, an assisted-living facility or perhaps long-term rentals allowing more families to gain access to the Palo Alto school system," the petitioners wrote.
The neighbors also worried over the safety of bicyclists passing by the home. Many students from Jordan Middle School, Walter Hays Elementary School, Castilleja School and Palo Alto High School and people heading to Rinconada Park, the Rinconada Library and the Palo Alto Art Center use Newell, a city-designated bike route, they said.
The proposal would move the driveway from Embarcadero to Newell, which would directly conflict with the bike route, petitioners noted.
Neighbors are also concerned about parking. The proposal includes a one-car garage and two driveway spaces. Already, with only a three-bedroom home, "there are typically three cars in the driveway every night and sometimes as many as four," they wrote.
"If you take the plans literally as written and call it a six-bedroom house, that gives the capacity for somewhere between seven and 12 occupants," said Paul Mielke, who spearheaded the petition.
"The parking situation will create problems for the whole surrounding neighborhood. If they use their excess space to run some type of business with short- or long-term rentals, the additional traffic and parking hassles will decrease livability and property values in the whole surrounding neighborhood," Mielke said.
The petition also elaborated on neighbors' other issues with the project, which include "dewatering" of the ground as part of the construction of the basement and the removal of a city-protected tree.
City planning staff were expected to meet this week regarding the property, City Senior Planner Ranu Aggarwal informed the petitioners in a Feb. 22 email.