Voters rejected larger proposal
by Breena Kerr, Daily Post Staff Writer
New plans have been submitted for the Maybell Avenue site in south Palo Alto that call for about half as many residences as a previous proposal that was shot down by voters last year in Measure D.
“It’s a big improvement,” said Han of Golden Gate Homes, submitted plans for five homes and 25 apartments on the 2.4-acre site.
The previous owner, the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corp., obtained city council approval to build 60 low-income senior apartments and 12 single-family homes.
Neighbors said the project was out of character for the residential neighborhood and would increase traffic on Maybell Avenue, a busy street used by kids who ride their bikes to schools in the area. After council unanimously approved the Housing Corp.’s project, residents gathered signatures and got Measure D on the ballot to stop it. Last November, Palo Altans voted to kill the project, 56.5% to 43.5%.
The vote was widely seen as a referendum on the rapid development taking place in Palo Alto, and the traffic it was causing. The election fueled the Residentialist movement that has prompted several candidates to jump into this fall’s council race, hoping to defeat the incumbents who supported the Maybell project and other large developments.
Before last year’s vote, council members and other proponents of the Maybell project warned that if the plans were rejected, the existing zoning of the property would allow the next owner to build a much larger development than the Housing Corp. had proposed.
A rebuttal ballot statement signed by Councilwoman Karen Holman and four others said: “It’s likely that the land would be sold to a private developer who could build 46 residences. These 46 multi-bedroom residences would have a much more significant impact on local traffic and schools than the current proposal which includes mostly one-bedroom senior units.”
But instead the new project will have 25 apartments and five single-family homes, about half the size of the Housing Corp.’s proposal.
`Vindication’ for Maybell’s critics
“On the surface, it certainly seems like much less than all of the doom and gloom that (the council) had talked about,” said Tim Gray, one of the leaders of the referendum.
“It honors the rules that we’ve all lived with … It’s a vindication,” he said.
Gray said that he believed then-mayor Greg Scharff and current Mayor Nancy Shepherd had played a large part in making residents fear what could be proposed on the site in an effort to justify their vote to approve the senior housing project. Scharff and Shepherd are running for re-election to council in November.
But last night Shepherd denied the accusation.
“At no time did I ever say this was `doom and gloom’ … I had no idea what the intentions of the (next) developer would be,” she said. “I hope that this proposal meets the community’s expectation.”
Scharff said he was happy with the new proposal. “I hope the community gets what it wants,” he said.
Because the new plans do not ask for any exceptions from city zoning codes, the new project will not have to go before the council for approval. The plans will be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board.
The Post reported April 30 that Han bought the property for $22 million, which was $6.4 million more than what the Housing Corp. paid for it in 2012.
Source: Daily Post 9-18-2014