Nov 052013

It’s deja vu all over again

The Maybell neighborhood’s struggle against a well-funded developer brings back memories of exactly ten years ago when many neighborhood residents worked to referend  the 800 High Street ‘planned community’ (PC).

A number of those working for the current PC  are the same people who in 2003 supported  the developer of 800 High.

Residents lost narrowly with 48.3.% of the vote, to 51.7% for the developer. The developer massively outspent the residents  as they are doing now on Measure D.

Planned Community (PC)  projects are almost always overly large, overwhelming the street, overturning the zoning laws, and often surprisingly badly designed. Why the designs are so bad is puzzling. Perhaps because the goal is simply size. Maybe greed simply overwhelms talent.

A few recollections about the approval process of 800 High Street PC.

* The developer  acquired an online copy of the draft Ordinance from the city,   revised it to suit themselves and distributed it.  Thus it looked exactly like a city document, same typeface, same format, etc.  On receipt, the Planning Manager attached a cover letter to the fake document   stamping it THIS IS NOT A CITY DOCUMENT.

* A  poll publicized by the developer that pretended to reflect public opinion actually was designed to influence it.

* The city gave the developer land under Homer Ave and under Lane 8 free of charge.

* The promise that the garage would have 63 (or 57) free spaces for the public,  (in addition to spaces for the occupants) and local businesses (including Chop Keenan) promised their employees would park there.   This was the most important Public Benefit. Where is it now?

* The web site rendering of the building misrepresented  the size of the project, making it look much smaller.

* A local businessman supporting the neighborhood project was actually a major investor (Santana).

* Public Open Space – 800 sq.ft. at the corner of Homer Ave. & 850 sq.ft. at the corner of Channing Ave. Can you find a Public Gathering Space at either location?

* City added private, internal open space in the calculation of “Open Space.”

The abuse and lack of enforcement of Public Benefits is too well known to go into here.


Some other recent PCs:

~801 Alma Street

~ 355 Alma office building – underparked and oversized

~Alma Plaza, and the unfriendly design leading to the supermarket failure;

~Edgewood Plaza, where a similar fate may befall the attractive Fresh Market,
and where a public plaza is actually going to be the outdoor seating area for a restaurant

~ 901 Alma Street

~ Cafe Riace on Sheridan Ave. and its disappeared public plaza

~ JCC on Fabian x Charleston, overwhelming Charleston Road street side

  One Response to “Deja Vu, All Over Again”

  1. I agree with all the points made in this article. The same poor design and oversize is also true of most of the McMansions that have and are being built in Palo Alto. Where is the good design? Why aren’t the ‘public benefits’ being enforced, and it looks like that they are about non existent.

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