Photo By: Courtesy of PAMF
A proposal for a new two-story Palo Alto Medical Foundation building on Altos Oaks Drive cleared a key hurdle Nov. 15 after the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) voted 5-1 for its approval.
Commissioner Jim Chiang cast the lone dissenting vote because he wanted the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission to review the project before submitting it to the Los Altos City Council for final approval.
The commission’s vote came after a Sept. 6 study session that included direction by the commission to improve the project. The project proposed for 715 Altos Oaks Drive would replace the two existing single-story medical buildings with a 25-foot-tall, two-story structure totaling 8,785 square feet.
According to Palo Alto Medical Foundation officials, the building will serve as a plastic and cosmetic surgery center comprising two operating rooms, five pre- and post-operating rooms and seven general examination rooms.
The proposed plan includes setbacks ranging from 20 feet at the front of the building – facing Fremont Avenue – and 55 feet at the rear of the property, as well as 8-foot-tall standards with directional lighting in the parking area. The project features 37 parking spaces – eight more than required by the city.
Prior to casting her vote, Commissioner Malika Junaid called the project “a prime example of how we want the city to work, where the applicant, the neighbors, (city) staff and everybody have been working together” to improve it.
Still, a handful of nearby neighbors raised several concerns during the meeting, including some who said the building was not in scale with residences in the surrounding neighborhood.
“There’s no way to pretend that building isn’t there. … Residents don’t want this kind of building right next to their homes,” said Teresa Morris, who lives nearby.
Other residents expressed reservations about privacy, noise and light pollution, and how traffic generated by the new building would impact surrounding streets.
A staff report on the project, however, noted that the building – located in the city’s Office-Administrative (OA-1) district – meets all zoning code requirements for the area, including its 30-foot height limit.
“This is a big building in a place where there was not a big building, and that is the reality of it,” said PTC Chairwoman Phoebe Bressack. “As one of the speakers said, you can put all the shrubs you want and all the trees you want, you’re going to know there’s a bigger building there. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
The report included a design assessment that the project “has architectural integrity and an appropriate relationship with other structures in the immediate area,” including height and bulk. It added that the project was “consistent” with the city’s General Plan, which designated the area for neighborhood commercial land use.
“If this were a situation where residential properties couldn’t have a second story, it would be something else,” Commissioner Ronit Bodner said. “It doesn’t seem fair not to allow a commercial property to have a second story if the residential properties can.”