Settlement clears way for José Andrés restaurant to cook with gas in Palo Alto | May 19, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 19, 2023

Settlement clears way for José Andrés restaurant to cook with gas in Palo Alto

City backtracks, allows new building at Stanford Shopping Center to use gas despite city's new all-electric requirement

by Gennady Sheyner

Faced with a threat of a lawsuit, Palo Alto administrators have reversed their earlier decision and will now allow the new restaurant that chef José Andrés plans to open at Stanford Shopping Center to use natural gas.

The restaurant, Zaytinya, is one of three buildings that the mall operator, Simon Property Group (SPG), is planning to build at the location of the shuttered Macy's men's store. Simon applied for the project in 2019 and received approvals from the city's Architectural Review Board and from planning staff. All of these approved plans included a gas line, which the developer installed in 2021.

The situation got thornier earlier this year when planning staff informed Simon that the new restaurant building, known as Building EE, would have to be all-electric. The determination was based on the City Council's revision to the building code last year, which included a provision requiring all new buildings to be all-electric. The new law kicked in on Jan. 1, 2023, and city staff had determined that because Simon had not submitted a building permit application by that date, the restaurant building would have to comply with the new "reach code."

Simon respectfully disagreed and responded in April with a letter threatening litigation if the city insists on enforcing the rule.

"SPG is confident that the enforcement of the new Reach Code in this context is legally defective and unconstitutional, and SPG is thus prepared to take all actions necessary to enforce its legal rights to employ gas facilities within Building EE," Anna Shimko, an attorney for SPG Group, LLC, wrote to the city.

She also noted that Zaytinya relies on "traditional cooking methods that require gas appliances to achieve its signature, complex flavors."

"Without a gas connection and appliances, Zaytinya would be forced to alter its signature five-star menu, which it is unwilling to do," Shimko wrote. "Zaytinya cannot compromise the caliber of its cuisine and reputation, and if SPG cannot provide gas in Building EE, Zaytinya will likely choose not to locate within the City. This would be an unfortunate loss for the residents of Palo Alto, as well as a compensable loss for which SPG would be forced to seek redress."

The developer followed suit on May 3 by submitting an application for a building permit for Building EE that included natural gas.

Now, it looks like Zaytinya will be able to use gas after all. The council discussed the city's dispute with the shopping center in a May 8 closed session, and on May 15, the city staff backtracked and entered into a settlement that will allow Building EE to use natural gas.

In a statement issued Tuesday, May 16, city staff said that the building is "in a unique situation, where parts of the project were built or under construction when the City's all-electric new construction rule went into effect.

"Due to the yearslong planning effort which started in 2019, three years before the city adopted the all-electric requirement, the city and the mall have agreed that this one project should be able to proceed with gas service consistent with the long-established project plans," the city's statement reads.

The settlement agreement signed by City Manager Ed Shikada and Steven Fivel, general counsel and secretary for SPG Group, LLC, specifies that the all-electric agreement would only be waived for Building EE and not any of the other structures that are being constructed as part of the redevelopment. In addition to Zaytinya, the building is slated to house the restaurant Dumpling City.

"In all other respects, Developer shall be subject to the 2022 California Building Codes with the city's local amendments," the settlement states.

The agreement states that the both parties seek to "resolve the dispute without the need for further legal proceedings and believe this Agreement is fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the Parties and the public."

"Developer and City understand that liability for the matters encompassed in Developer's April 28, 2023, letter is disputed by the parties and that this agreement is a compromise and shall not be construed as an admission of any fact, claim or allegation of liability or responsibility on the part of the parties, or any of them," the settlement states.


Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2023 at 10:57 pm

ALB is a registered user.

Food brings people together. Thank you PA for welcoming José Andrés to the community. Often in life we teach people how we want to be treated. In this case PA backtracked because a lawsuit was inevitable. Sadly, the staff only changed their tune because of a legal suit that they wanted to avoid and because the community spoke up in support of José Andrés. Let’s welcome his restaurant to our community. Bienvenido!

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2023 at 11:18 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Glad the city changed its mind on this even if they did so to avoid a lawsuit rather than on the merits of their forced conversion to which many object.

If you're one of those who object to the whole forced conversion for many different reasons, please sign the petition to rescind the ban entirely, Please also consider sharing it with your friends, neighborhood groups etc.

Web Link

Posted by anon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2023 at 11:26 pm

anon is a registered user.

Good decision.
Chef Jose Andres is one of the worlds shining lights.
It’s an honor to welcome him to Palo Alto.

Posted by Ugh
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2023 at 11:34 pm

Ugh is a registered user.

Hah, of course the city settled- that way the law won’t be overturned by the court so that businesses and residents would be able to have gas again. It’s clearly illegal.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2023 at 7:36 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Sanity reigns this time!

Now CC, how about doing something to make the electricity supply more reliable!

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 17, 2023 at 9:33 am

Annette is a registered user.

Ugh makes a good point. Suggest all who agree go up to Online Name's post as I did, click the link to the petition, and sign it.

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2023 at 10:57 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

Does this set a precedent? I hope so. Will those of us who want to continue to use gas stoves be allowed to if we threaten to sue? I do understand that if you have gas you can keep it but if your stove needs to be replaced after the all electric effective date kicks in, then what? In the meantime I will be signing the petition and encouraging everyone I know to do so as well. The city council is way off the mark on this demanding legislation and should let the voters decide on this policy. They know what would happen if they did. All the virtue signalling they can muster wouldn't change the mind of most residents, the majority of whom would probably vote to keep gas and let people make the choice form themselves. Why doesn't Palo Alto Online do a survey and print the results?

Posted by Andy
a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2023 at 12:20 pm

Andy is a registered user.

The lawsuit states:"Zaytinya cannot compromise the caliber of its cuisine." This gives a misleading impression. Many top chefs, including Michelin-starred ones, are ditching the gas and making the switch to Induction. Their reasons include speed, safety, efficiency, control, and easy clean-up. Chef Alexandre Couillon–owner of Michelin-starred La Marine, says “[induction cooking] allows us to expand our creativity…Induction makes the quality of the products sublime.”

Posted by Environmentalist
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 17, 2023 at 2:13 pm

Environmentalist is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 17, 2023 at 4:58 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Environmentalist, re dying and health and safety and ignorance, I'll never forget a panicky phone call from a friend who lives with her elderly mom and whose chair lift to get her up to bed died along with the power.

They were cold and scared.

Having tried and failed to find outage info before her cell phone died, too, she asked me to try since we still had power. I also found nothing.

It would be interesting to know how many household who need power for their chair lifts, medical devices, storage for meds etc. have spent thousands of dollars to buy their own generators. And guess who powers those generators? Not electricity,

When the city upgrades its grid and/or pays to underground the rest of the city -- which cost me about $8,500 decades ago -- let's talk again.

Also, you might remember the Diana Diamond blog here about her numerous failed attempts to get answers from the city on how they'll cope with increased demand.
If nothing else, the NON-answers are amusing,

Web Link

Until then, send a message to the city that their priorities are out of whack and virtue-signalling is not a plan to insure we have reliable power.
Web Link

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 17, 2023 at 5:02 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

LOL! Since a similar law in Oakland had been struck down by the court (rightly, IMHO), the city has no legal leg to stand on.

Posted by caseyc
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2023 at 11:09 am

caseyc is a registered user.

This is a damaging disregard of the commitment to electrification. Ok, one restaurant gets its way, and now others will feel self-righteous about following suit. Folks, this isn’t right or fair. We need a massive commitment to climate mitigation from everyone. Any chef can learn to cook electric to make delicious food. Shame on Palo Alto for allowing this “permitting reform”!

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2023 at 11:28 am

Online Name is a registered user.

What does self-righteousness have to do with trying to avoid the forced conversion which should be rescinded -- at least until we're prepared to cope with the increased demand? Many of us are STILL waiting for the answers from the city re the questions Diana Diamond has posed for years about how the city's preparing for increased demand,

Evasions are not answers.

Methinks you're confused about where the self-righteousness and virtue-signalling is.

Re realism, there were several articles today on the impending shortage of lithium for car batteries. Combine that with the fact that most e-cars don't go long distances, that we're asked to charge our cars during RUSH HOUR not during the evenings to reduce demand on the grid and avoid blackouts...

If you don't think we're ready for forced conversions and/or you think the city's policies should be brought to a vote, please sign and share this petition.
Web Link

Posted by Moctod
a resident of University South
on May 22, 2023 at 5:06 pm

Moctod is a registered user.

The banning of gas in our small city will certainly make many of our citizens feel they have set a shining example of making a sacrifice that will help to save us from global warming. That ban will also greatly benefit the local electric contractors and appliance dealers and cost those residents on a fixed income a significant expense.

However, if you really think that such individual actions will save the environment, look at where the clothing you are wearing and the computer you are using were made. Our principal imports of manufactured goods come from a few countries that generate the majority of their electric power from coal. Our grid also produces significant amounts of electricty from natural gas, and others have pointed out that we are not close to ready for an all electric appliance and car structure.

Better yet, think about limiting our population. The average lifetime amount of carbon produced by a US resident is about 20 tons. That is a lot of gas stoves...

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2023 at 5:31 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Moctod, excellent points.

Don't forget about all the staffing up CPAU is doing to "help" with the conversion like educating us, help is apply for loans == which raises the question: Will these loans become a profit center for the city and/or their chosen financial institution?

I ask because PA is already asking for "deposits" for the Fiber System we couldn't reject.

"Better yet, think about limiting our population. The average lifetime amount of carbon produced by a US resident is about 20 tons. That is a lot of gas stoves..."

Absolutely. Yet here we are, under pressure to add 1 million people to the Bay Area while funding state lawsuits to force through that population growth WHILE banning ALL discussions of that for 8 -- EIGHT -- years while also spending a fortune "climate" and "sustainability"

And right here in Palo Alto tonight, City Council will be discussing the YIMBY lawsuit against PA's failure to abide by the housing requirements filed AFTER the city submitted its plans to the state and thus also ignores reality.

Since the YIMBY's have filed several similar suits against other cities for not filing AFTER they filed, can't PA and those cities countersue them for vexatious litigation and use the settlement to reduce our utility bills?

How much will it cost US to respond to this absurd headline-generating lawsuit??

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2023 at 5:50 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

P.S. to the reduction of population. The birth rate is already lowering in the "educated" west. More women are delaying getting pregnant until their careers are established and then finding it difficult to get pregnant with one, let alone subsequent children.

Of course, the birth rate and population will continue in the poorest areas and countries, among the lowest educated.

What will this mean in 30 years time? I think they made a movie about it.

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