BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Editor
The Palo Alto City Council said tonight (October 17) that a proposal to build 382 apartments next to the Barron Park neighborhood is nowhere near getting their approval, as they sided with residents who called the project “grotesque” and “scandalous”. ”
“It would be foolish of us to think that we know better than the community,” Councilman Greer Stone said. “When we see so much opposition from a neighborhood, it should give us all pause.”
Council members were unanimous against the proposal to demolish the Creekside Inn, Driftwood Market and a restaurant to build two apartment buildings on either side of Matadero Creek.
They agreed with residents that the 64-foot building at 3400 El Camino Real would make Matadero Avenue less safe and congest neighborhood streets with parked cars. They wanted to see fewer apartments and for the beloved Driftwood Market to remain.
“Like many who spoke tonight, I’ve been around Driftwood all my life. It’s a staple in this community,” Stone said.
Local developer Ted O’Hanlon pitched the project on behalf of Oxford National Group, a Chicago-based developer. The city needs to waive some of its rules to provide much-needed affordable housing, he said.
The apartment complex would have 76 units (19.9%) with rents capped to match a tenant’s income in Santa Clara County.
Of these, 19 units (5%) would be for people earning 140% of the average income. For a couple, that means earning more than $188,000, planning director Jonathan Lait said.
For the board, he was a non-starter.
“It’s not for janitors or for electricians or gardeners”, Vice Mayor Lydia Kou “Even for some teachers who are not reachable, so I want to be very clear about this.”
Councilman Eric Filseth said the project would be aimed at high-income tech workers, as most apartments would be expensive studios or bedrooms. The project would be best suited for Meta offices, Google offices or Stanford’s research park, he said.
O’Hanlon is asking the city to waive its fees which are used to fund parks and affordable housing in other parts of the city. He said it was necessary for the project to make a profit.
The city would collect about $21 million in fees from the developer, planner Garret Sauls said.
Kou said the request was “inadmissible”. Filseth said O’Hanlon was asking for the waiver as a negotiation tactic and would back down later in the process.
Tonight’s meeting was a ‘screening’ for board members to give their input before an official nomination was filed. Other recent shortlists for apartments have received much more positive feedback, but no applications yet. Proposals have been along San Antonio Road, adjacent to Town and Country and at the southern end of El Camino in Palo Alto.
Much of the Barron Park Neighborhood Association spoke out against the project. Many public speakers said they were in favor of more housing, but the proposal was too big and in the wrong place.
“Please save our neighborhood: send this back to the developer and tell them to start over,” said resident Kelly Stafford.
Cédric de La Beaujardière said that according to his estimate, the apartment complex could increase the population of Barron Park by 15% to 30%.
Matadero Avenue is designated as a safe route to school, but it’s already congested and dangerous, resident Winter Dellenbach said. This project, with only two exits from the underground garage, would make the problem worse, she said.
The two-story underground garage would also cause damage to Matadero Creek, Dellenbach said. Mayor Pat Burt agreed and said the project should be farther from the water.
Stone asked City Attorney Molly Stump if the city could stop residents of the apartment complex from parking in Barron Park.
Stump said former Attorney General Kamala Harris felt it was not appropriate to limit residents of multi-family projects from single-family neighborhoods, but his opinion is advisory. The council has wide discretion as to where to draw the lines of a parking district, Stump said.