Around Town | August 31, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 31, 2018

Around Town

LIVING IT UP ... Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer turned a few heads five years ago, when she bought Palo Alto's oldest funeral home, Roller & Hapgood & Tinney. Now, plans are afoot to convert the building at 980 Middlefield Road into something completely different: a private club that is geared toward female tech workers and that would offer working spaces, networking events, speaker series, conference rooms, a small gym, a gallery, coffee and snacks. Dubbed "The Corner House," the new venue's mission would be to "provide a vibrant, welcoming space for traditional and non-traditional professionals to collaborate, work, learn, find support, build community, and spend time with their families, friends and neighbors." According to the application, there would be about 150 members and guests using the site at any given time, though up to an estimated 400 people would show up for special events. There also would be outdoor events with amplified sound, though the club would be required to cease operations by 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and by 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Indoor events would run until midnight, according to the application. All these activities notwithstanding, the application claims that it would actually be quieter and cause less traffic than the former funeral home. Having "tens to hundreds of mourners gathering en mass is presumed to have been a greater strain on noise and traffic due to a private event than the facilities (sic) newly suggested model and use," the application states. The ambitious proposal, however, faces one formidable obstacle: It is illegal under the zoning code. As such, the property owner (officially listed as 980 Middlefield LLC) will need to convince the City Council to change the "planned community" zone — which was tailor-made for the site to accommodate the mortuary use <0x2024> to allow for the new facility. This might be tough sell at a time when parking shortages and traffic congestion remain issues of intense community concern and when Addison Elementary School, which is located right across the street, is undergoing its own remodeling project. It also doesn't help that the proposed project would reduce on-site parking spaces from 45 to 36. While the applicant states that the facility would "encourage walking, biking, ride-share, carpooling or public transportation" and that off-site lots can be used for large events, city planners noted in the report that even with these measures, "It is not clear that the proposed parking would be sufficient to accommodate the day-to-day use at the site." The City Council plans to consider the preliminary plans and offer early feedback at its Sept. 10 meeting.

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