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Apartment proposal would be largest to date under 'planned housing' zone

Original post made on Jan 28, 2021

The busy corner of Fabian Way and Charleston Road may soon be redeveloped to create one of Palo Alto's largest apartment projects in decades under a proposal heading to the City Council next month.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 28, 2021, 8:54 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Allison
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2021 at 10:14 am

Allison is a registered user.

Why does the project need to be so large? What about dividing in half? No need for such a large building on that corner.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 28, 2021 at 10:18 am

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I'm looking forward to seeing the community response and getting more information about this project.

So long as the state is committed to forcing population growth here, converting commercial space to residential is probably the best approach for Palo Alto.

More people means more cars, so traffic and parking issues in the area will get worse. If the project is approved, we could learn a lot by making a serious effort to measure the effects.

Posted by Rhodoreae
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 28, 2021 at 10:28 am

Rhodoreae is a registered user.

I hope this project gets the City of Palo Alto to add a bike lane on East Charleston between Fabian Way and San Antonio. It is scary to have the bike lane disappear for that one block.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 28, 2021 at 10:47 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

So people get shoved into high traffic area to live. Were air & noise pollution are at a peak. Where gas stations and away from trains. Absurd. What’s state-of-the-art about this? It’s all so precious few can continue to escape reality behind their Internet screens and R1walls, discriminating the other. The 24 apts at Wellesley is perfectly suited. In fact Palo Alto should be doing this type of neighborhood clusters all over. Why should people in multi families be excluded from having what single family dwellers have??? Why?

Posted by Geneva
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2021 at 11:17 am

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This project will have horrendous impact on QoL in this entire section of PA and beyond. congestion, traffic, huge water usage, etc.
Further more Santa Clara, and San Mateo already have excessive apartment OVERBUILD. More people working from home and a large percentage of workers moving away from the area have left a 20% vacancy rate

Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2021 at 11:30 am

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Great idea! Close to the freeway, and will provide a large amount of housing in a community which desperately needs it. Palo Alto needs far more projects like this.

Posted by Toyon Berry
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 28, 2021 at 12:16 pm

Toyon Berry is a registered user.

If they commit to planting and keeping the 60+ foot redwood trees as shown in the renderings, I'll support it!

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 28, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The space available on the corner of Charleston and Fabian is very limited. It is limited by the parking lot entrance of the Oshmen Center on Charleston. Then you have the entrance for the parking garage on Fabian. Is the building east of the entrance to the garage on Fabian? From the picture I do not see how the two facilities occupy these limited spaces. Is the building further down Fabien and not really on any part of Charleston?

Posted by Stepheny McGraw
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2021 at 12:36 pm

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This is overkill for this area -- way too high and too dense -- especially considering that further down on San Antonio, there is already a sea of housing. Palo Alto needs tax revenue from businesses in industrial zoned areas to support our existing population's schools and infrastructure. Not to mention the increased use of all of our parks, especially Foothill, which require more funding to maintain. We need to push back on the stage legislature and ABAG for their unreasonable housing demands.

Posted by Eric Nee
a resident of University South
on Jan 28, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Eric Nee is a registered user.

There are not many places in Palo Alto where large apartment buildings can be built without changing the character of the area, but this is one of them. It's a half block from JCC which is similar in height and density. It's a block away from San Antonio, which is rapidly becoming a high-density corridor. And it's on industrial property, and right now housing is more important than industry. What's not to like? So yes, let's approve this project.

Posted by R. Cavendish
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2021 at 1:30 pm

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

quote: "converting commercial space to residential is probably the best approach for Palo Alto."

∆ concurring.

quote: "So people get shoved into high traffic area to live. Were air & noise pollution are at a peak...Why should people in multi families be excluded from having what single family dwellers have??? Why?"

∆ because of affordability constraints and available land. not everyone can afford to reside in the nicer parts of the Palo Alto and why should established neighborhoods be ruined to accommodate more housing? the proposed location is better than a lot of other locales throughout the peninsula.

quote: "Close to the freeway, and will provide a large amount of housing in a community which desperately needs it."

∆ Plus there's a frontage road along 101 to ease commuting and errand running.

quote: "What's not to like? So yes, let's approve this project."

∆. concurring.

Posted by Dick D.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2021 at 3:58 pm

Dick D. is a registered user.

Given the success of the JCC, why would this proposal be so different ? Given its location, the height would be a plus – allowing more units in the area when Palo Alto has precious little space for something like this. Can you imagine the noise if this were proposed for anywhere along El Camino ?! The JCC residents deal with all the problems others have identified in today's comments. Amongst other positive aspects of this proposal is the distribution of unit sizes, with 50% for medium income occupants.

By its sheer size this is small stuff compared to the JCC . . . which many including myself think is a great contribution to Palo Alto. Within the JCC are many more units than in this proposal and their contribution to traffic, etc. is not a gigantic problem. No matter where more housing is located within our wonderful NIMBY town, it adds to traffic . . .

Those commenting on the development of San Antonio need realize that's a plus for higher density housing since that development will make that area more and more appealing.

Posted by Context matters.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2021 at 4:53 pm

Context matters. is a registered user.

The Charleston-Arastradero Plan was a mitigation for the last 1,000+ housing units (plus CJL and a few other projects) that were built in the Charleston School Commute Corridor Area. When will that complete street mitigation be finished? Two decades have passed, and we are still waiting for Phase 3 (delayed again), but the developers' projects are all built and occupied.

We need to know that the city will follow through on promises to mitigate project impacts, whatever they may be. Following through on promises is how one builds trust that the city will do that.

Posted by Oh well.....
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2021 at 7:42 pm

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Another housing project proposed on a federal and state confirmed Super Fund site.

Posted by Easy8
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 28, 2021 at 9:11 pm

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Along these lines, what are the arguments for and against housing on the other side of 101 - such as where Anderson Honda is located? It seems one could even build say a 10 story housing complex in that region without too many negatives. Granted, there is no public transportation in that area, but public transportation is lousy everywhere in Palo Alto to begin with.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2021 at 10:06 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

May be best to reduce emphasis on biking. That’s hardly the main point to such a housing project. Really.
Be sure it’s not underparked.
Ensure convenient adjacent public transportation.
What about impact on Palo Alto Unified School District!? I take it these tenants will bring lots of kids but pay no property taxes to support PAUSD.
- from an overburdened PA taxpayer

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2021 at 12:00 am

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This project will pay lots of property taxes and PAUSD enrollment is dropping. The small size of the units will mean a relatively low number of public school students will be living there.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 29, 2021 at 6:19 pm

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More density? We're all hysterical about viruses to the point of shutting down the economy and schools for a year.... until developer money and tax base comes into play, and then no one wants to face the fact that dense living conditions encourages contagion among other problems.

Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2021 at 10:36 am

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The developer is kidding, right? This is one of the worst intersections in Palo Alto. At many times of day it is in gridlock.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2021 at 11:28 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I looked at the site yesterday and it is bigger than I had imagined. That section was never very attractive so this will be a good addition to sprucing up the area. The big problem is parking. At this time we have JCC employees who use residential streets as their work garage. And leave trash on the street when they "clean" their cars and change clothes. So the JCC/Oshman have not lived up to their initial hype that their development would be totally contained on their property. Say anything to get your project approved.

The challenge here is for the developer to make sure that there is adequate parking for the residents and their guests. Add to that permit parking for the local residents. I drove around the Middlefield/University area the other day which has a lot of doctor offices and noted that the residential section had permit parking.

The next challenge is a left-hand turn lane on Charleston at Fabian traveling south. That is the worst place ever with people holding up traffic on Charleston for people turning left onto Fabien. Fix that.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 5, 2021 at 6:51 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

This: "the proposed site is in a single-family neighborhood and that several council members underscored earlier this month their opposition to seeing planned housing projects in R-1 zones."

and this: "Council member Greer Stone also said that he wants to see the city avoid projects in R-1 zones as an assurance to residents that "their R-1 zone won't be threatened."

One concludes that City Council is opposed to *housing* in R-1 Zones, but happy to approve commercial projects there. In a couple weeks, CC will allow rich private school Castilleja to almost-double in size, including excavating an enormous underground parking lot on Bryant St, where hundreds of children as young as 5 bike to and from public schools every day.

And CC will approve Casti's massive overdevelopment on 60 R-1 lots, even though Castilleja did not even attempt to prove the most basic and ubiquitous legal requirement of any use permit for nonconforming use permits: The presence of a PUBLIC benefit. Casti refuses to share its underground parking garage and high-tech swimming pool with *anyone*, even if they pay.

But *here* is a proposal of *housing*, which will actually *reduce* traffic by enabling people who work in Palo Alto also to live in Palo Alto, and City Council all of a sudden wants to "protect" R-1 neighborhoods?

Greer, Lydia, Tom, and Eric: if you really care about R-1 neighborhoods, you won't allow an exclusive, extremely wealthy private school to turn Old Palo Alto in a practice driving track for underage drivers, en route and back from a gated private school that long ago outgrew its site.

Let Castilleja move to a busy highway alongside all the other schools (Kehillah is right down the street), and put multi-family housing where *housing is zoned*.

But to allow a tony gated private school to overbuild on 60 R-1 lots on 7 formerly quiet residential acres, while claiming to be a protector of residential zoning is hypocritical & shameful.

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 5, 2021 at 9:04 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Hi, Rebecca!

I wanted to respond to one of your comments because I hear it from so many people: "But here is a proposal of housing, which will actually reduce traffic by enabling people who work in Palo Alto also to live in Palo Alto..."

Moving people into an area increases traffic, rather than reducing it. The reason is that most trips are near home, rather than work -- for shopping, eating, entertainment, medical care, kids, and so on, plus commuting. A rule-of-thumb is that housing for one person generates 3.5 trips per day, and office space for one person generates 2 trips per day (mostly commuting in and out). So building housing for a person working in Palo Alto almost doubles the traffic generated by that person *in Palo Alto*.

Census data shows that even though there are three times as many jobs in Palo Alto as working residents, 75% of our working residents have jobs in other cities. Companies move, people change jobs, spouses work for different companies, and so on. This has been true for a long time, and there's no reason to believe it will be different in the future. We have to accept that most people who move into Palo Alto won't work here in the long run.

Combine these two things -- double the amount of local traffic per worker, and triple the number of workers living here -- you're talking about a factor of 6 increase in resident traffic. This clearly isn't possible, which is why people so often cite traffic as a reason that major growth here is no longer feasible. And this assumes there's no increase in the number of jobs!

Could you fix this by improving transit? Yes, if it's effective enough. Unfortunately, Silicon Valley is widely distributed, so the places people need to go aren't neatly concentrated. You can build a transit system for that, but it's mind-bogglingly expensive, which is why people so often argue that you shouldn't drastically increase population without having a way to solve the transit problem first.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2021 at 7:54 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The total parcel of land was developed for commercial use. Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation (FACC) was located at this site. It later morphed into Space Systems Loral and now morphed again. One whole section is now the Oshman center and the JCC. There are additional apartment complexes. Add another apartment complex and you have now totally changed up the understructure of the water and sewage systems that have to be processed by the PA Utility site by the bay. All was based on the original proposed use of that property. Now the use has been flipped on it' back and the question on the table is can the city handle the increased stress on the systems we have in place today. Someone has to do a serious study on that topic because it is key to successful outcomes for the city in general. We cannot get trapped into leakage into the bay which has occurred in the east bay. Everyone has to understand what the capabilities of the systems are.
The city Sewer people have been in my neighborhood three times with water cascading down the street so everyone needs to understand what the capability is.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2021 at 9:17 am

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I remember when they first started talking about building the Jewish Community Center nearby. At the time, we were promised amenities, bus routes, coffee shops, and told that there would be no impact to the nearby neighborhoods. As it happens, those amenities did not materialize. Even when a gas station requested to be able to sell hot foods, it was refused (if I remember correctly). There are now signs all around the area of no parking for JCC events. Obviously there is more of an impact and traffic on that San Antonio, Charleston, Fabian corridor has been heavily impacted.

I agree that building something like this may be a good idea, however, the infrastructure has to be improved to cater for it. Work on the infrastructure improvements before building starts.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:49 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

JCC employees park on the residential streets every day like they have assigned spots. This is a big screw up on street cleaning day. And they leave trash - plastic water bottles, what ever in their car they want to clean out. Signage is the big issue now.

I checked out East Palo Alto - the whole residential section has signs for street cleaning so that there is no long term parking of RV's on residential streets. East Palo alto has enough money to manage their streets - what is wrong with us?

Back to the apartment - think of all the toilets that are being flushed in all of those apartments = all of them. All of the showers being taken. A concentration of activity which was never planned for that section . And next to the bay roads - sometimes marked for flooding. The impact on our processing structures must be a really big change.

Posted by hkatrs
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 17, 2021 at 11:07 am

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YES!!! This is needed in Palo Alto today!

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Yes. San Antonio is rapidly becoming a high density corridor (it's also rapidly becoming a parking lot) ...with no Comp Plan directive, no area plan, no traffic mitigations. Projects come forward simultaneously, so city planners don't consider accumulative environmental impacts. This is how "planning" is done for south Palo Alto--consistently inattentively.

Note how vastly different this is from north Palo Alto's comprehensive SoFA planning process, drawing the ire of people at this end of town, understandably.

Please treat south PA like the rest of the city for once. Twenty years ago, the city had nearly 1,000 units of housing, offices, a new private school, and the CJL in the pipeline at the same time. Yet, like now, no aggregate impacts analysis was done on Charleston-Arastradero. So, neighbors took it on themselves to do the analysis. This forced the city to acknowledge that what they were doing was grossly inappropriate. We didn't oppose the housing. We worked with the city on the Charleston-Arastradero Plan to mitigate its traffic impacts. A nexus study was done that confirmed developers had to help pay for mitigation per state law. The developer money was collected, The developer projects were built and occupied for years, but the mitigation plan languished.

The mitigation plan is still not complete. The final phase of the project which addresses the intersections with the highest collision incidence have not been addressed. City of Palo Alto, if you want citizens to trust that you will plan well, then follow through on promised mitigation plans and, going forward, plan well for aggregate impacts. History is repeating in south PA...and we have not forgotten the city's failure to follow through last time.

If you want people to support housing again, you have to also work on mitigation plans that make higher density work. Address impacts on transportation, community services, public schools (Cubberley) .

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 12, 2021 at 7:24 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

There is no lack of new housing going up in the whole region. Extensive new housing in Menlo Park both on ECR and east of 101. No lack of new housing going up on San Antonio and ECR is that quadrant. If people think we need to add housing wait until the current projects are completed and then rack up the numbers.

Some people seem to be stuck in their homes and not out looking at what is going on. Then they shred their hankies about all of the people that need housing. We have new extensive housing now and in process.

This project does not have to be oversized - it should be consistent with the JCC and the other apartments on Fabian. And make sure that there is a garage for cars there- Do not off-load those cars onto the residential streets.

We need a police substation in this area. I was hoping that would be one of the buildings located in that area but need one at CHS. If you keep loading people into this quadrant then add a police substation.

Posted by In The Zone
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2021 at 6:58 am

In The Zone is a registered user.

° We need a police substation in this area. I was hoping that would be one of the buildings located in that area but need one at CHS. If you keep loading people into this quadrant then add a police substation.

• The PAPD already has its new multi-million dollar facility and given the cureent and adverse public sentiment towards the police these days, a substation-precinct would be a bad idea from both a fiscal and PR standpoint.

Just subcontract with the MVPD to make a few drive arounds and be done with it.

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