Pushing Palo Alto’s land use laws, retail and residential housing to the max

Palo Alto city Council voted early this morning to make permanent the city’s ordinance protecting retail on the ground floor of buildings downtown, and extending the ordinance to other parts of town, despite claims from property owners and developers that it will do permanent harm.

Brad Ehikian of the commercial property management company premier properties, said the ordinance fails to take into get to account that some properties aren’t right for retail.

Developer Chop, Chop Keenan argued the ordinance takes a one size fits all approach, creating inflexibility that would hurt property owners.

Developer Roxy Rapp echoed the same bullshit sentiment saying retail is changing and it’s changing fast.

In a meeting that stretched past midnight, council voted 63 to make permanent and ordnance that prevents the conversion of ground floor retail space into offices.

Council members Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka of the starship enterprise and co-pilot Adrian Fine voted against this motion.

Kniss said she wanted to separate downtown from an ordinance that applies to other retail areas in town, saying she too was concerned about the “one size fits all” approach.

“Where a quirky town, “she said. One end of the town is very different from the other end, Kniss said.

She made a motion to stick with an ordinance for just the downtown area, but it failed with only Tanka and Fine voting with her.

Fine said that while the downtown area has been studied, he doesn’t think the ordinance is ready to take citywide, asking for more time to iron things out.

The ordinance will include the California Ave., District, Midtown and the El Camino Real area.

Councilman Tom DuBois said the city has been working on the ordinance since 2015, providing plenty of time for feedback.

If the city wants to keep retail in town, Councilman Eric Filseth said the council needs to act now, because once retail is gone, it will never come back.

Council passed an urgency ordinance in May 2015, followed by an interim ordinance approved a month later that is set to expire April 30.

The permanent ordinance expands the boundaries for the downtown protection zone two areas that were removed in 2009.

This vote in 2009 included removing properties along Alma St., High Street near Hamilton Avenue, along the circle ramps connecting University Avenue to Alma Street, and along Kipling and Cowper streets north of University Avenue.

Some of these properties are now office buildings, which means the offices are allowed to stay, but when they go out, retail would have to go in, according to city officials.

Jamie Wong, whose project at 429 Using University Ave. Was approved by Council last week, said the retail boundaries were carefully drawn in 2009 and some of the properties at University Avenue and on my street were not developed with retail in mind.

“It’s a crappy location for retail”, Wong said.

Several people in the peanut gallery argued counsel not to extend the retail protecting boundaries but to compress it to make it more pedestrian friendly.

This is why shopping malls work, said Judy Kleinberg, head of the city’s chamber of commerce.

Property owners and realtors of locations that were previously retail spoke to the struggles they’ve faced while trying to find a retail tenant.

Christian Hansen, owner of the building at almost Street and Addison Avenue that once housed Anthropologie, said he has been marketing the building for more than a year, but no one is interested in the 10,000 square-foot retail space at that location.

Yet the ordinance will require the Anthropologie building to remain a retail location.

Restaurants and fitness center representatives have approached him, but these uses aren’t allowed by the city, Hanson said, asking for a broader definition of retail.

Ehikian said he had a tenant for the space formerly occupied by North face before it moved to the Stanford shopping Center, but more parking was needed. However, the city’s ordinance wouldn’t let him demolish 2000 ft.² of the building to add more parking, so the place sits vacant he said.

Housing for 4146 El Camino Real, an empty lot next to the Zin motel and across the street from Starbucks in South Palo Alto.

The zoning for the lot currently allows 15 housing units per acre, but the owners want to want it rezoned for 30 units per acre.

This change would allow up to 23 units on the .76 acre site, and 21 units were proposed.

“This is an opportunity for better land use, “Hayes said, adding that it would provide much needed housing.

Vice Mayor Liz Kniss mentioned that leading up to the November election, candidates for city Council spoke to the need for more housing in the city, but she said now counsel is approach approaching a proposal for more housing rather cautiously.

A density bonus

Councilman Tom DuBois said his initial thoughts is to keep the zoning as it is, and he encouraged the developer to consider the state “density bonus, “which would allow a larger project if it included more low income housing.

Developers can get the bonus, which allows them to exceed local limits, in exchange for building affordable housing or senior housing.

In regards to the density bonus, Councilwoman Karen Holman said she was concerned that the belt developer could come back with an even bigger project than the current 21 condos proposed.

Under the bonus, the project could have as many as 80 additional housing units on top of the proposed 21, according to city officials.

Following his presentation, Councilman Eric Filseth said he hasn’t yet seen a compelling benefit for residents to allow more housing on the site.

Not ready for prime time

While Kniss said the area along El Camino Real is one of the areas in town where the city ought to look at more rather than less, she agreed that she didn’t think the proposal was ready for prime time.

Councilman Adrian Fine, however, wanted to see even more housing on the site. Fine said it’s nice to see a housing project. This is a more efficient use of scarce land, he said.

But find encouraged the property owner to look at a zoning change that would allow even more housing on the site maybe up to 40 units per acre.

The project is on El Camino, which is near retail and services, and an ideal spot for housing, he said.

“I think it would be great to have housing rather than a vacant lot on El Camino, “Fine said.

Billboard location

The lot was previously occupied by a home before it was a lot demolished in 1997. A lone billboard stood on the property until it was taken down last year. Councilman Greg Tanaka offered up another idea, saying the property owner should consider “microunits, “which would be about 300 square-foot apartments.

Last nights meeting was a preliminary review of the project to get councils feedback. The property owner hasn’t yet submitted a formal application to the city.

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  4 comments for “Pushing Palo Alto’s land use laws, retail and residential housing to the max

  1. Jason McCormick
    February 16, 2017 at 5:16 am

    Ed—please consider this a request or demand for good coverage by the Daily Post. Said paper seemingly relies on its own judgment instead of greater good and often jumps to crooked conclusion that falls far short of respectable. Dave—do you ever cover dirt by local business, such as those which continue fueling your post’s primary or sole source of revenue? Are you familiar with your outfit’s apparent conflict of interest in respect to our community’s news and various advertisers? Your paper’s front page today discriminates against individuals, including an alleged snatcher and “property owners.” Do you manage property—housing for others? Do you consider yourself a landlord? The front page of your paper today includes the following.

    “But property owners criticize city’s one-size-fits-all approach”

    Could that translate to the following?

    “But Dave Price among other self-proclaimed property owners prefer discrimination”

    #boom

    In my view at least, your efforts largely continue falling short of significant: Get real.

    Seriously,

    Jason McCormick
    Resident of Menlo Park, Calif.
    Graduate of Palo Alto High School

    P.S. Please consider this a letter to the editor for publication pursuant to our mutual understanding of free speech, which includes the foregoing hashtag, many thx. And have a great day :)—Jason

    discriminates

    __
    Fired on the fly

       2 likes

  2. February 16, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Hi Mark,

    I visited your website, paloaltofreepress.com, today and saw that you had posted a number of stories from the Daily Post without permission.

    They included stories about City Council passing the retail preservation ordinance, the burglar who got 34 years in prison, the Nicholas Emmerling lawsuit, the synchronization of stoplights, and so on.

    You do not have permission to use Daily Post content. The stories printed in the Daily Post are copyrighted.

    I’m asking you to remove all Daily Post content from paloaltofreepress.com immediately.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    Dave Price
    Editor and Co-publisher
    The Daily Post
    385 Forest Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
    650 328-7700

       2 likes

  3. Aram James
    February 16, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Chad, Of course not! The explanation: the Trump administration, along with Russian intelligence, tapped into the Daily Post website and transferred data from the Post to Palo Alto Free Press to under-cut both publications growing circulations. You and Dave need to fight back–together you can bring down the Trump administration-and Putin.

    P.S. All the above are facts–or at a minimum-alternative facts

       2 likes

  4. Mark Petersen Perez
    February 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Dave Price should be more concerned about the fact that the City of Palo Alto does not recognize the Daily Post as an adjudicated, pronounced through Judicial decree that they are fit as a “newspaper of general circulation” under Government Code Section 6000-6008.

    The Daily Post essentially lacks accreditation to run Legal Advertisements in Palo Alto. Perhaps this has changed.

    See: Palo Alto Councilmen’s questionable motive behind Weekly’s lucrative advertizing contract

    http://paloaltofreepress.com/palo-alto-councilmens-questionable-motive-behind-weeklys-lucrative-advertizing-contract/

    You would think the city’s view point of Dave Prices newspaper or lack of would be of world news importance. No! he’s chosen to go after Palo Alto Free Press for regurgitate vomiting up his news articles in Parody by changing the story lines.

    It has done nothing for us in terms of revenue we’ve generated zero income. Zero Dave, you’ve got your stories up your ass in a tether.

    We know you do not believe in the digital age of print because you continue to publish a hard copy which generated tons of environmental trash and by going digital, which again, you don’t believe in, is the fault of know one but yourself.

    But my god, Mr. Price at the very least get up to speed on digital law and on “fair use” we would suggest Electronic Frontier Foundation – Defending your rights in a digital age https://www.eff.org/ and shut the fuck up and pick on someone your own size.

       1 likes

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