By Rae Staben
The Palo Alto City Council will seek a referendum on its plans to develop an office and professional theater complex across from the Palo Alto Caltrain Station at 27 University Ave.
The project, which will be voted upon at the Nov. 5 meeting, has received funding from John Arrillaga ’92 MBA ’98 and will house TheatreWorks, the third-largest theater company in the Bay Area.
The City Council has also requested a traffic study, a reexamination of the size and scale of the structure by the Planning and Transportation Commission and a comprehensive plan for public outreach before further steps are taken. The public will be able to air any concerns at the November meeting.
A City Council staff report dated Sept. 24 stated that the plan aims to create an “arts and innovation district” at the “highly visible and accessible” area between Stanford University and downtown Palo Alto.
“It brings together the edges of the Palo Alto community with the Stanford community and begins to create a new place of interchange,” said Palo Alto Councilman Greg Schmid.
Some Palo Alto citizens have already voiced their discontent. Martin Sommer started an online petition to urge the mayor and City Council to retain the 50-foot limit, which the building would violate. The current complex is planned at over 100 feet.
“If John [Arrillaga] were to build his office complex, it would destroy my living space, and the space of 43 other homeowners in Abitare,” Sommer wrote in his online petition. Sixty-seven supporters have signed the petition as of Oct. 15.
The city’s enforcement of the 50-foot limit has loosened since it was established in the 1970s. The 101 Lytton Ave. building measures 70 feet and restrictions were eased for the Stanford Hospital & Clinics medical center.
“We are well aware of the petition and the number signed and the interest in the community,” Schmid said. “I think our next scheduled meeting… will be a time for us to hear from a range of the public. We are looking forward to the public playing a big role in this.”
University Director of Community Relations Jean McCown said that while Stanford is not directly involved in the development’s approval process, it is supportive of the project.
“It is impossible to propose this without the University’s consent of proposal,” McCown said.
McCown also wrote a letter to Palo Alto Vice Mayor Greg Scharff expressing the University’s support, saying, “Stanford is pleased that the city of Palo Alto will be giving this proposal its thoughtful and constructive consideration.”
According to Schmid, all of the proceeds of the office space will be given as a gift to Stanford.