Elizabeth Wong’s project for 429 University finally gets a green light

Building proposed for 429 University Ave. in Palo Alto.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The last item of the last agenda of the last meeting of the year for Palo Alto City Council may have finally ended the long and tumultuous battle over a retail, office and housing development at 429 University Ave., proposed by developer Elizabeth Wong.

The council, on a 6-3 vote, granted the final approval for the project, which will replace stores including Shady Lane boutique, to start after six years of controversy.

Council members Karen Holman, Lydia Kou and Tom DuBois voted no while Eric Filseth, Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss, Greg Scharff, Greg Tanaka and Cory Wolbach voted yes.

The 28,547-square-foot development will have two levels of underground parking, stores on the street level, offices on the second floor, housing on the third floor and offices and a terrace on the fourth floor.

Even though the council initially approved the building in February 2017, council members had problems with the aesthetics of the project, and requested that Wong and her team make some changes to the project and bring it back to the city’s Architectural Review Board for approval.

Design changes

At the Architectural Review Board’s Oct. 4 meeting, the commissioners rejected some of Wong’s design changes. A few days later, Interim Planning Director Jonathan Lait approved two of the three changes Wong was seeking.

Wong appealed the denial of the third change, landing the project in front of Palo Alto council once again.

The council on Monday received threats of litigation over the approval or denial of the project from both Wong’s attorney and from resident Michael Harbor, who was one of the neighbors who first appealed the Architectural Review Board’s approval of the project in March 2015.

Last-minute changes

Another issue that appeared to irritate some council members was that Wong submitted changes to the proposal on Friday, three days before the council meeting. That caused Lait to retract his October recommendation of a full approval.

Because of the late hour that the changes were submitted, they did not make it into the council’s agenda, and they were not known to the council until the project came before council late Monday night.

Harbor said it was not fair that he and other neighbors didn’t see the new plans before the meeting.

He added that one of the changes — a shift in square-footage on the fourth floor — was a change to one of the most contentious aspects of the building over the past several years.


  1. > council members had problems with the aesthetics of the project

    Which council members, and were the aesthetics problem that the project was insufficiently modernist, and that voters might actually like it or—for once—the reverse?

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