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How did this ugly housing development get approved?

Original post made by Jonathan, Greenmeadow, on Oct 2, 2007

In my opinion the new homes replacing the Hyatt Rickies are very ugly.
I believe a row of trees and some lawn between El Camino and the homes would have been much more attractive. Compare the development at the end of Meadow where trees, lawn and a fence separate the development from a much quieter street.

I wonder who will buy homes set right on noisy El Camino?
Is the developer prioritizing greed over aesthetics?
Why did the City of Palo Alto approve homes right on El Camino?


Comments (36)

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Posted by agree
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Its a gross injustice to the City of Palo Alto. Shame on the city government that approved such an eyesore. What a travesty to take down something quaint that signified the old time character of Palo Alto (Ricky's complex) and replace it with something so miserable.

(And could they paint it any uglier obtrusive colors?)

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 7:55 pm

The travesty is that the city allowed some NIMBYs to drag the Hyatt hotel proposal around for 10 years or so, so they finally threw in the towel and it became all housing. At least if it was a hotel/housing mix we would get all kinds of juicy hotel taxes (taxing out of towners and not having to provide any services - how ideal).

How much worse could it have been as a housing/hotel mix?

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Posted by joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2007 at 7:59 pm

The development is disgusting. Trees should line the project. It looks like El Camino and Jefferson in Redwood City... sunny and bleached.

Money talks, folks.

BS council...

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:27 pm

I had been thinking the same myself, at least if there was more of a setback they could have put in some trees between the buildings and the street, now there is room for nothing and we can all see through their windows. Ugh

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Posted by jj
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Indeed, I was driving down El Camino the other day and all of a sudden got appalled by the unspeakable sight! How did this monster slip into the city that we all love and are proud of? The shame!

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:59 pm

AS Citizen stated, you can thank a certain member on the area for dragging it out for 10+ years.
this person knew how to "play" the city council and knew how to get what he/she wanted from them. I cannot mention her name because the genteel editors of this forum will delete it. I think those of you who followed the story over the years know who I am referring to.
By the way, this person is also responsible for Alma Plaze no longer being all retail. A few years back this person got the city council, in the dead of night, to impose a building moratorium along the Charleston Road corridor and to include Alma Plaza in it as well.
We owe this person alot--so before you complain about what is happeneing at the old Hyatt site and at Alma Plazam you should read up on how it all came to pass--the big factors being a NIMBYist who knew ho wto work the system and a weak-willed city council afraid to take a stand an doffend some people.

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Posted by GMC
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:01 pm

I'd like to throw an "amen!" in here. I was staying at the Rickey's when Hyatt announced they were pulling out. That was a really cool place. I took tons of pictures of the Rickey's as it stood in 2004 and I'm glad I did! It may have been getting outdated as a hotel, but I'm sure there could have been some better idea that this weird looking complex overlooking a busy street. You guys are totally right about it crowding the street - I wouldn't want to live there. It needed at least some kind of parkway or something.
I just hope that the NIMBY crowd that objected to the hotel redevelopment will slowly lose their grip on power as the number of people here that are heavily personally invested in this community start to speak up. I'm not talking about emotionall investment, though that's part of it - I'm talking about really high property taxes and mortgages and the sacrifice we make to live in this nice community.

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Posted by A Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Those units so close to the road are probably the BMR units. That's what you get for trying to please ABAG.

Just wait until the Elks Club site is built up; it is going through the approval process right now. It is pretty garish.

Welcome, to la la land!!!!

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Posted by Another Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:45 am

Isn't it amazing that so many people from "Midtown"neighborhood think that this is a wonderful development and wwould be even better if a 300+ hotel was added to the site.
I wonder if these people are investors in this new (future slum)site/development.

They should petition the city to have a 600 unit, housing and a high rise hotel, built across the street from where they live.

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Posted by Forum reader
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:58 am

It's hard to know how many actual people are writing here. From the uniform tone and the hostility, and the NIMBY name calling, it all sounds very familiar.

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Posted by Jonathan - original author
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:50 am

So perhaps we can ensure the city of PA does not allow Elks to be developed like the old Hyatt site?

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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 3, 2007 at 9:40 am

Below is a quote from another forum that explains what's going on.

"As one of the most proficient land-developers in Greater [xxxx],
developing about 700 building lots per year (affiliated with our
sister company building 400 homes per year), I can tell you that the
bad architecture and the bad land planning that leads to it is directly
a result of zoning laws and other statutes and not the creative minds
of the businessmen in the industry.

We're constantly subject to the whims and demands of volunteer
neighborhood planning committees, indifferent and inept county/city
staff, and a host of other collectivist/altruistic groups and councils--
just like those who redesigned Cortland Homes in The
Fountainhead [Ayn Rand]. They choose the lot sizes and shapes, streetscapes,
street shapes and bends, square footages of the homes, the
architectural facades, the setbacks, the consistency themes in
neighborhoods, et cetera. They'll allow you as the developer to
submit an opinion about your own materials so long as the opinion
is entirely in keeping with theirs.

The control over the land-plan has been around for decades-- the
control over the architecture has been growing steadily year by year
for about 10 years now.

After years of doing this and facing the tragic alternative of give-in
or go broke, one is forced to give in."

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:29 am

People, please. Does everyone here claim to be so naive? The big developers will always do what they want to do when and how they want to do it. Want to know why? Because that's what they do and that's all they do. They can drag this process on forever knowing that the individual homeowners in PA can't possibly stay interested in a developer's project as long as they can because 1) that's not what homeowners do for a living and, 2) homeowners have other more important primary functions i.e.: working, raising kids, etc. They will schedule meetings after meetings for years if needed always altering the times so that the average Joe can't possibly keep attending. Sometimes 8AM or 7PM, who can keep up with this? This is all about big money and people that benefit from it that do not live around here.

They want to pack as many income producers per square foot that they possibly can because that means more money for that project. Soon, everything will look like Bascom Avenue in San Jose just off 880. Huge blocks of three story buildings with retail on the bottom looking like a cross between Toon Town at Disneyland and some faux-finished wannabe like Santana Row. Every block will look like this: Starbucks / Noah's Bagels / Subway / Tanning & Nails / Blockbuster / Quizno’s / Dunkin' Donuts etc. Any distinct characteristics that make up a town like PA will soon be gone if this keeps up. have you ever driven from town to town in the LA Basin? It is almost seamlessly the same and if it were not for the signs, you would have trouble telling that you crossing city boundries at all.

Almost every large controversial development hires one or more local consultant/lobbyist to help them through the "local process". These people know the inside track to squeaking these things through by 1) playing the local game the best way that can be possibly played and, 2) calling in/promising favors to previous movers and shakers. Think that I am making this up? This kind of gamesmanship has been going on as long as man has been around and is not isolated to PA. That's just the way it is. Think: why does every big controversial project have a certain consultant always somehow mixed up with it somehow? I believe his name rhymes with Slim Phaer or something like that. I will be the first to proactively pre-edit my own last comment here: [Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

And that's how this ugly housing development got approved.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:15 pm

R Wray,

That sounds like passing the buck to me. Even the most devoted NIMBY doesn't do architectural drawings.

I think what it comes down to is that no one really cares what El Camino itself looks like, so it is relatively easy to add in extra units there. I mean, as a place for actual housing it's awful without a setback, but nobody really cares.

Palo Alto is under a lot of pressure to build, but the town really is built out. At least the Rickey's complex is by two main thoroughfares. The complex that strikes me as a traffic nightmare is the one being built on Bayshore and Loma Verde. That's such an obvious business/light industrial spot that it seems insane to put a housing complex there.

That said, the neighbors raised a ruckus a few years back about having an Internet farm there, which would have been minimal traffic and have no impact on the schools.

I hope they leave some retail in Alma Plaza.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Oops, I meant Edgewood Plaza. It's next to a freeway and there's no retail up at this end of town. It wouldn't have to be anything big--a coffee shop--Peets, an independent, a dry cleaner, some sort of food itemie place. Mixed-use, townhomes are fine--okay, I'm rooting for a senior center because the schools are overcrowded around here, but maybe we could get the money to re-open Garland . . .

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:26 pm


I need to adjust your comment about that "Internet farm" that was opposed years ago. It wasn't the business that was opposed, it was that the company wanted to put install a huge power generator(s?) with a couple of 10,000 gallon diesel tanks next to those abutting neighbors' back yards. Ironic twist: right after that project was denied, the dot com industries tanked so those neighbors probably saved that company from being sunk by that huge new monthly facility expense.

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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Didn't the units and houses on the Hyatt Rickey's site sell for very high costs: 800K, 1M...figures like that?
I thought it was sold out long ago, though driving by on ECR I did see one real estate sign.
A popular place to live.

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Posted by just thinking
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Perhaps there won't be housing abutting EC if Hyatt had been allowed to do their proposal that would have put a hotel there and housing out of sight behind it. Oh, yeah, the detractors didn't want any housing - even with the hotel.

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Sounds alot like what happened with Alma Plaza--it was supposed to be kept all retail, but the detractors were never happy with the amount of retail and so it dragged on for years until the supermarket owenrs threw in the towel and now you have housing with a little retail.
Of course the same detractors are now nitpicking it to death with the support of certain members of the Planning Commission.

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Posted by Patricia
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 4, 2007 at 5:59 pm

As I recall the City coucil jerked around Hyatt Rickeys FOR YEARS as they attempted to get approval to expand the hotel. (I believe that process went on for something like 3 years) Finally, in frustration, Hyatt gave up and sold the property to a developer AND the city lost a fortune in revenue (business brings in more revenue than property taxes). We get higher rates on utilities and get to look at those incredibly ugly homes. Way to go !!

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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 5, 2007 at 11:46 am

Wray, you are funny. Your utopian (dystopian?) Rand world of 'function follows form' exists only in the bookshelves of geeky college kids that have never had a job, not in the free market.

The new development looks like it does because thats what the market wants. I dont like it much either, but I dont like the color my neighbor painted his house last spring either.

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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 5, 2007 at 1:58 pm

I wonder how many people have actually been inside this development - looked at some of the homes, or talked to some of the new residents. btw, the entire development is almost sold out. So, I guess "taste" IS subjective, eh?

I'm happy with this development. The main reason it's striking is because so much of Palo Alto development is set back.

That said, when ninside the lower level units that front El Camino, on their ground level balconies, one would hardly know that El Camino was there - it's very quiet.

As one goes further into the complex, noise from El Camino disappears altogether. One can imagine this development, 5 years hense, as landscapingn takes hold and trees begin to mature. It will be a delightful place.

I welcome the new residents that are moving in, and the diversity and energy they will bring to our community.

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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 5, 2007 at 2:04 pm

btw,, I have never once agreed with Wray, but on this topic, I have to give him a partial nod of agreement. NIMBY's controlled the entire process at the Hyatt; then, they got their way - and now, they don't like what their manipulations of process wrought. Karma...

The amount of interference on development projects here is absurd. PLanning commissions, arcgitectual commissions, environmental reports in the extreme, development concessions in the extreme - just look at the Stanford initiatives, and how certain groups are already drolling over potential Stanford concessions.

Yes, _some_ process is necessary to maintain control over out-of-control development, or ooutright bad design, but our process is too long, and too drawn out by a city wanting to please small interest groups who often don't even reside in the areas where they contest development.

We need to work with developers to make sure we get the best they have to offer, demand reasonable concessions, and then let our city grow - instead of listening to those who are nostalgic for a past that will not return. For the latter, there is always retirement to the country.

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2007 at 4:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 6:19 am

Well, let me rephrase this again so that it will pass the eagle eye of the PA online censors---
I wonder if the person who so vigorously opposed the Hyatt is happy with the new development in it's place.
I also think that the citizens of PA should be made aware of all the tax revenue that was lost to the city due to this person's obstruction of the Hyatt remodel for years.
Also the city needs to thank this person for the further loss of tax revenue due to the fact that Alma Plaza will no longer be an all retail site.
This is what happens when our weak city council let's a vocal minority hijack the system.

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Posted by Blame the Victim
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 6, 2007 at 11:49 am

Loski and Vivian have got it right. Blame the victim!
You should have gone along with the greedy developers who are now going to make more money than ever. Those multi multi multi multi millionaires can defeat a group of citizens anytime they want to. Ask Jim Baer!
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 12:22 pm

I am not sure who is the "victim" here. The issue was supposed to be about maintaining a hotel and building some housing on the rest o fthe property.
The process got hijacked by a "neighborhood leader"--the developer tried for 10 years to satisfy this person, since the PA city council was not going to take a firm stand one way or the other (they might have upset one of the vocal people in PA and thy cannot have that).
They threw in the towel and now you have all housing.
The victim is the city that lost a nice source of tax revenue. I blame the "neighborhood leader".

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Posted by Blame the Victim
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 6, 2007 at 2:09 pm

The victim is the neighborhood and the whole city which gets an oversized, unattractive, inappropriate development, overcrowded schools and roads.
Your attacks on neighborhood leaders is familiar. At least they represent many of us. You represent yourself only, and attack, attack, attack our fellow citizens.
Writing to the forum so often doesn't mean people agree with you. It means you try to overwhelm others. It doesn't work.

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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2007 at 3:59 pm

I agree on this site being poor planning and just plain ugly! The front doors are about 15 feet from ECR. What will this place look like in 5 years with almost no setback for landscaping.
This should have been a five star hotel with underground parking. The old hotel was good for about 1 million in taxes per year.
Most of the people that move into these homes will shop in Mt. View.
Yes, we can thank a small homeowners group for all of this! What a EYE SORE!!

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Vocal NIMBYs are a fact of life - they are everywhere and will always be with us. Isn't the Council the group that is supposed to look past the vocal minority to the greater good? Wasn't it within their power to get a commercial deal done? Shouldn't they ultimately take the blame for this?

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 4:57 pm

Others have mentioned that the development is almost sold out--so not sure how ugly or inappropriate it is.
Obviously the best would have been to keep the hotel and have some housing as well on the large lot. Unfortunately this was not achieved due to the efforts of a "neighborhood leader" and a weak city council.
I agree with Terry this is more the blame of the city council--they should have dealt with the "neighborhood leader" in an appropriate manner and reached some kind of deal to keep the hotel (and the tax revenue that it generated for the city).
Maybe every once in a while these neighborhood leaders need to be reminded that they need to consider the good of the entire city and not just their little enclave.
Anyway, Blame the victim, you are stuck an "oversized, unattractive, inappropriate development, overcrowded schools and roads" (in your words, not mine)--things could have been different but busnisses have only so much patience for the PA process and selfish "neighborhood leaders".
If things do not change here soon we will lose more auto dealerships and other tax generating businesses.

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Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 6, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Vivian, I agree, to a point. I don't think that neighborhood leaders are selfish; rather, *some* of them are somewhat short-sighted in a well-meaning way. We all have our own ideas about what is good for our city, just as some neighborhood leaders do.

Slowly, I think our policy makers are adapting to the future projected needs of our city, and doing their best to look past the small enclaves and groups that have in the past been permitted to hold up development for unreasonable amounts of time.

I don't think it's so much "selfish" or "bad" people, it's individuals who have been reinforced by past Councils who tried to please everyone, and been willing to carry forward diligence on time-sensitive projects, ad infinitum.

In any case, the Hyatt development will be quite attractive as landscaping takes hold. I would urge all those complainingn about it to walk inside the complex - it's easy to see the potential - and it IS almost entirely sold out.

I do have a small gripe about the setback, myself - but it's a small price to pay for what lies inside, and the increased diversity that additional citizens will bring us.

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Posted by Vivian
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Jeremy--I agree with your comments about individuals who have been reinforced by past Councils who tried to please everyone--that is why I place the major blame for the loss of the hotel and it's tax revenue in the lap of the city council.
However I still many of these "neighborhood leaders" as being selfish--they are only concerned about their little fiefdoms and do not seem concerned with the city's needs as a whole.

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Posted by high five
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2007 at 5:33 pm

I get a chuckle every time I drive past that development. Once they become populated the homeowner can reach out their front window and I my car window and we can high-five each other. Over what, I don't know. But they sure are close to the street.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Research the history...

What was orginally proposed was replacing a 340 room hotel with a 320 room hotel & 302 unit apartment complex.

What the city ended up with is a development of a 180 unit townhouse complex. If you think the 180 unit townhouse complex is bad, just imagine what 622 units would have been like.

Here's the weblink Web Link

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:24 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

You said it Jonathan. My thoughts exactly as I drove by the other day. Hideous! Funny how grass and trees must seem a quaint thing of the past to developers.

High five, your comment gave me a good laugh! "Over what" indeed!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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