NEW HEIGHTS ... The proposal by billionaire developer John Arrillaga to create a new "arts and innovation district" next to Palo Alto's downtown Caltrain station has already generated much enthusiasm among city officials, who often laud its potential to greatly improve pedestrian environment in one of the city's most prominent areas. But if the Thursday meeting of the Architectural Review Board is any indication, many in the city remain unconvinced. The project includes a theater and an office complex consisting of four towers, one of which would be 160 feet tall. The board did not vote on the project, though members voiced some concerns about the building designs and the potential parking problems. Board member Alex Lew said he didn't like the massing of the proposal, while Randy Popp encouraged Arrillaga's team to put more thought into the design of the buildings. "This is a tremendous opportunity to do something really interesting," Popp said. "It takes skill and experience and knowledge to create something here that is sculptural and efficient and beautiful and sustainable and will really set character for this part of town. I'm looking forward to all of the skills coming to the table and to really moving this project in the right direction so that we can see something on par with the rest of the world, frankly." Residents who attended the meeting expressed a spectrum of opinions. Carol McLeud lauded the project's potential for improving the area around Caltrain. "We're not talking about Manhattanization of Downtown Palo Alto," McLeud said. "We're talking about a very specific area which right now is unsightly. It's trying to do far too much in far too small an area." Others were less flattering and characterized the buildings as far too massive and tall (it would far surpass the city's 50-foot height limit). Elaine Meyer was among them. "Just because a developer tells the city to jump, do you have to say, 'How high?'" Meyer asked the board. "On the other hand, you could, working in the public interest, say, '50 feet.'"
TWEET TWEET ... Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh, who is entering the final two months of his council tenure, will take it to the Twittersphere on Nov. 7 to discuss the city's recent accomplishments and ongoing projects. Yeh will join City Manager James Keene and Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental in the fifth and final "Twitter Q&A," which will give residents a chance to ask questions in 140 characters or less. The event will start at 7 p.m. Twitter users are asked to append their questions with #AskPaloAlto or check out the session by following @cityofpaloalto or by typing #AskPaloAlto in the search field of their Twitter applications. In the future, the city plans to invite other department directors to participate in the community conversations and to "explore new ways of engaging our community using innovative technology."