Strawn Construction, which completed construction of the fire station at 799 Embarcadero Road in March 2020, is asserting in a Jan. 5 claim that the city failed to approve, execute or provide payments for more than 120 change orders that it submitted during the station's construction, which was completed about a year behind schedule.
Now, the city is squabbling with the contractor about who is responsible for the delays and cost overruns on the $10.1 million project.
Randall Strawn, president of Strawn Construction, accuses the city of numerous deficiencies.
The claim cites "delays by Palo Alto in responding to Request for Information on numerous desired and directed changes," including details pertaining to the building's exterior siding.
The council is scheduled to discuss the claim in a closed session on Feb. 7.
Man allegedly goes on window-smashing spree
A man was arrested in downtown Palo Alto early Monday morning after he allegedly smashed windows at 12 businesses, causing in excess of $100,000 in damage, according to police.
Palo Alto police received a report of a man who allegedly kicked in the door at SliderBar restaurant in the 300 block of University Avenue shortly before 4 a.m. The caller reported that other businesses also had broken windows, a police press release stated.
Officers immediately responded and arrested 37-year-old Joshua Sinclair Kahan of Palo Alto without incident.
The vandalized businesses were in a three-block area within University and Lytton avenues between Bryant and Cowper streets. They included SliderBar at 324 University Ave.; Siam Royal, 338 University Ave.; the Apple store, 340 University Ave.; Design Within Reach, 355 University Ave.; Union Bank, 400 University Ave.; Yayoi, 403 University Ave.; Lululemon Athletica, 432 University Ave.; Form Fitness, 445 Bryant St.; Apercen Partners LLC, 314 Lytton Ave.; and commercial properties at 255, 265, and 390 Lytton Ave.
None of the properties appeared to have been burglarized, but the damage caused some businesses to temporarily shut down. At Siam Royal, owner Judy Vasa said the smashed front door would probably force the business to temporarily close for the safety of her patrons.
"It's so hard right now, and it keeps coming and coming," she said of setbacks such as the loss of business from the pandemic and now the lost revenue from having to close the restaurant and replace the door. "We've been here 30 years, and this is the first time this has happened."
Kahan has been charged with 13 counts of felony vandalism.
Council expands renter assistance
Palo Alto tenants who face eviction could be eligible for relocation assistance from their landlords thanks to a law that the City Council adopted on Monday night.
By a 5-1 vote, with Greg Tanaka dissenting and Greer Stone recusing himself, the council expanded a law that it had adopted in 2018. The existing policy entitles tenants to receive payments ranging from $7,000 for a studio to $17,000 for an apartment with three or more bedrooms.
That policy, however, only applied to buildings with 50 or more apartments. The law that the council passed Monday broadens the policy to include all buildings with 10 or more apartments, a change that more than doubles the number of apartments citywide that fall under the program.
Supporters of tenant rights, including the nonprofit Silicon Valley at Home and the local group Palo Alto Renters' Association, cheered the move as a positive step to supporting renters, who make up about 45% of the city's population.
"We see more and more people getting evicted through no fault of their own," said Christian Beauvoir, a member of the Palo Alto Renters' Association.
But not everyone approves of the change. Kevin Guibara, director of real estate company Millennium Flats, which owns numerous apartment buildings in Palo Alto, argued in a letter to the council that the types of renter protections that the council is contemplating are "damaging the local economy."
"The housing market is over-regulated, which is why there is not enough housing," Guibara wrote. "Please do not continue to make the problem worse by passing more rules."
The city is also preparing to create a city registry of rental properties, a broad survey that will help guide it through future policies related to tenant protections.
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