Plans to redevelop Fry’s site approved

Under the plan approved by Palo Alto City Council on Tuesday night, part of the old Fry's building would be demolished while the rest of it would be renovated.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Council unanimously approved a development agreement tonight (Sept. 12) with the Sobrato Organization that locks in the development of 15 acres in the Ventura neighborhood where Fry’s Electronics once operated.

Sobrato will be allowed to keep its research tenants in the old Fry’s building, which will be partially demolished to make room for 74 townhouses.

In exchange, Sobrato will give three acres to the city to use for affordable housing and a park along Matadero Creek. The developer would also give the city $5 million.

One acre earmarked for affordable housing could potentially yield about 75 apartments, built by a nonprofit hired by the city.

The development agreement prevents the city from changing the approved uses at the site for 10 years, compared to two or three years for a typical project.

The agreement came out of private negations starting in November 2021 between Sobrato and a council committee of Mayor Lydia Kou and former Councilman Tom DuBois.

“The outcome of this actually exceeded my expectations,” Councilman Pat Burt said tonight. “I know we would all like to get everything in negotiations, but this is a big deal.”

Kou apologized to the public for doing negotiations behind closed doors.

“I will not do it again,” she said.

The biggest issue for the public was the partial demolition of the old Fry’s building, which used to be a cannery owned by Chinese immigrant Thomas Foon Chew.

Residents have lined the chambers to talk about Foon Chew’s accomplishments as an entrepreneur who employed people of different backgrounds in the early 1900s. 

Foon Chew’s supporters waved signs saying “save the cannery” during last week’s meeting.

Council members thanked the public for bringing his legacy to their attention. 

They agreed to rename Portage Avenue to “Thomas Foon Chew Avenue.”

“What an extraordinary businessman and social innovator,” Councilwoman Vicki Veenker said.

Sobrato will be required to keep a portion of the cannery’s monitor roof intact and to put up a display about the building’s history. 

Burt said the new park should celebrate Asian heritage as a whole. 


  1. To clarify – According to Sobrato’s architect who spoke at last nights council meeting, that due to narrow streets, daylight plane and water treatment issues, “Very significantly less” and “Considerably less” townhomes would be built! Total bait and switch.

    And it was made clear by staff that there is no guarantee that ANY homes would ever be built.

    The only way this got through was that oligarch billionaire Sobrato threatened council into approval. Vote for it or we will sue the pants off you, and/or we will apply under SB 330 and the city will get no benefit.

  2. The lack of imagination in Palo Alto continues. I don’t see why an Asian center like Japantown or the Los Altos Food Hall or Eataly wasn’t considered.

    It’s not like we need more offices with all the vacant ones around.

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