The laundry list of requests, which will be included in a letter to the county Board of Supervisors, includes a provision that Stanford pay the city affordable-housing fees based on its academic growth (in addition to the fees that the university already must pay to the county), that it help create a new pathway connecting Bol Park to Stanford Research Park and that it consider expanding its successful Marguerite shuttle system to serve a greater portion of the city.
The city is making its request at a pivotal time for Stanford's multiyear effort to secure the county's approval for a new General Use Permit (GUP). If approved, the GUP would empower Stanford to add about 2.275 million square feet of academic space, 3,150 new dwelling units or student beds and 40,000 square feet of child care and support facilities by 2035.
President Hotel owner applies for hotel conversion
The owner of President Hotel Apartments submitted plans this week to convert the historic apartment building in downtown Palo Alto back to its original use as a hotel — a controversial project that continues to face significant zoning hurdles.
Among the biggest obstacles standing in the way of Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners, the Chicago-based firm that bought the six-story building at 488 University Ave.last June, is a downtown cap on non-residential development that the city approved in 1986 to limit new commercial development to 350,000 square feet. The conversion of the 56,603-square-foot building would puncture the cap.
That, however, can change on Monday night, when the City Council considers the divisive proposition of eliminating the downtown cap altogether.
Last week, the Planning and Transportation Commission recommended scrapping an ordinance that requires "grandfathered" buildings (those not complying with current zoning rules) like President Hotel, to retain their same use when undergoing renovation. In doing so, however, it expressly prohibited the conversions of such buildings from residential to non-residential uses — a restriction that AJ Capital is expected to challenge in court.
AJ Capital's formal application for the hotel conversion calls for preserving existing ground-floor retail and creating a hotel lobby and a lounge in the existing apartment lobby and vacant retail spaces.
The 75 apartments in the building would be converted to 100 hotel guest rooms and existing roof gardens would remain. The submitted plans don't include parking.
Planning Director Jonathan Lait said the city is still analyzing the application, though it has already identified several areas in which it fails to meet the city's codes.
"The way it's set up now, the application does not meet our current regulations," Lait said.
Unsatisfying compromise on wireless equipment irks residents
Seeking to balance the legal rights of telecommunication companies and residents' aversion to clunky cell equipment occupying city property, Palo Alto officials narrowly approved on Monday a compromise on a wireless proposal that left both sides feeling unsatisfied.
The City Council voted 4-3, with council members Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou and Greg Tanaka dissenting, to reject two appeals pertaining to Crown Castle's application for seven wireless communication facilities in the downtown area.
The condition calls for five of the nodes — near 275 Forest Ave., 248 Homer Ave., 385 Homer Ave., 845 Ramona St., and 190 Channing Ave. — to be mounted on streetlights and concealed by shrouds. Planning Director Jonathan Lait rejected a proposed node near 345 Forest Ave., which would have required a replacement streetlight next to the historic Laning Chateau Apartments building, and near 905 Waverley Ave., which would have required a new pole. Lait said both nodes could be accommodated by other street poles in the area.
Though the plan deviated from the Architectural Review Board's decision on Dec. 6 to require that all equipment be placed in underground vaults (or otherwise installed "out of sight"), Lait said the option isn't feasible because the city has underground utilities in the downtown area, leaving little space for the Crown Castle equipment.
But while his argument swayed the bare majority of the council, it enraged some of the residents, who insisted that his approval of the streetlight design without any hearings effectively deprived the public of its right to review the design.
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