BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
A 508-unit housing and office development got a thumbs-down from the Palo Alto City Council tonight (Sept. 20), with one councilman saying a 112-foot-tall portion of the project was a non-starter.
Jay Paul Co. of San Francisco is proposing one six-story apartment, one eight-story apartment and another eight-story office building at the 9.8-acre site of the Cloudera building at 395 Page Mill Road.
It would be the largest housing development in Palo Alto.
Moreover, it would represent the largest affordable housing development the city has seen in years. Of the 508 apartments, 76 would be set aside for low-income tenants. The city’s largest low-income housing development in the previous seven years was the 59-unit Wilton Court project at 3705 El Camino Real.
Jay Paul Co. sent its concept to the city on Wednesday, and planners quickly put together a memo to be included in the council’s discussion about how to improve the North Ventura neighborhood.
Residents spoke out against the late notice, and the city council decided not to discuss the project in depth, instead focusing on the overall neighborhood plan.
Those who weighed in on the new development were not in favor.
“They don’t get to first base in my mind,” Vice Mayor Pat Burt said. “It’s completely out of the ballpark.”
Burt said he viewed the office “tower” as a nonstarter. He said Jay Paul Co. is out of touch with the city’s zoning — the proposed 112-foot height is well above the city’s 50-foot limit — and the desires of the community, which are against more offices.
Mayor Tom DuBois agreed with Burt. He said the office space won’t fly with residents, and he wants to maintain the 50-foot limit, except when projects are entirely below market-rate.
“(The project) is way off from what the community really wants,” DuBois said.
Maia Harris, the director of special projects at Jay Paul Co., told the council that office space is necessary to financially support the project.
She said she factored in the cost of creating a 2.3-acre park, keeping 20% of the units below market rate, demolishing the existing office and building two levels of underground parking, and came up with a need to build 420,000 square feet of office space.
The current three-story office, built in 2000, is 224,852 square feet and is subleased by Cloudera to Snap and Pinterest. The property was home to Hewlett Packard’s first company-owned building.
The 10-acre property is at the northwestern corner of the 60-acre Ventura neighborhood, which has been identified by council as suitable for more housing. Palo Alto, like all cities across the Bay Area, is facing a mandate from the state to clear the way for thousands of new housing units over the next decade.
The property is a few blocks from California Avenue and the train station.
Eighteen members of the public spoke on the project, mostly to ask for more time to review it.
Residents of the Ventura neighborhood said they wanted more park space, and less density.
Tom Gilman, an architect for Jay Paul Co., said the project embodies the goals for the area. It would be built sustainably, have below market-rate housing and include 3.6 acres of usable green space, more than double what currently exists, he said.